A simple guide to understanding the concept of jihad – ideology and recruitment process.


(Dla Polskich czytelników – bardzo przepraszam, ale wersja w języku polskim pojawi się we wtorek).

“If there [was] no racism in the West, there [would be] no conflict of identity. People, when they suffer in the West, it makes them think. If there [was] no discrimination or racism, I think it would be very difficult for us.”

                                                                    Omar Bakri, the leader of al Muhajiroun

In my last article, I was making fun of the CIA agents and the Agency itself for making a very lousy job, educating and informing American people about all topics related to the issue of terrorism, which ironically, reflects even in a seriously outdated CIA website :). It made me realize, for the sake of the argument, that Islamic Radicals and the US government, have one thing in common – they do not want you to learn the truth, they want you to learn THEIR version of the TRUTH and ONLY when THEY think it is necessary, which is best described by Abdul Jabbar van de Veen:

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed is king.”

Therefore, it may come as a surprise to many of you that a few years ago I have applied twice for a job at the CIA Headquarters in DC. No, I did not want to become a female version of 007 – I was more interested in becoming “SALT” – with no interest in dirty fieldwork :). With my quite complicated background 🙂 I do not blame them for keeping me out of “the circle of trust,” but it did not stop me from doing what I love the most. I may not be good at many things, but I am an excellent researcher and many political issues like, the infamous secret CIA interrogation facilities for the terror suspects (which resurfaced in media in 2006) or a transition from an organization like Al-Qaeda to rapidly growing Islamic State – become my “food for thought” and a driving force into my own pursuit into investigating each case and gaining as much knowledge on these controversial/taboo topics as possible in order to connect dots without submitting myself to government’s propaganda and media’s cluelessness.

During my recent studies of Paris attacks, I came across Peter R. Neumann – Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) in London – whose name was mentioned in an article in German magazine: “Der Spiegel”. I have learned that back in September 2015, Neumann published his newest book: “The New Jihadist,” but since it is in German language and it will take time before I can lay my eyes on the English version, I decided to read his previous book on this topic: “Joining Al-Qaeda – Jihadist Recruitment in Europe,” which in reality lays the ground for his newest publication.

Without exaggeration, it is the most fascinating and the most informative book I have EVER read on this topic and it should become a MANDATORY READING for all Police Forces in the US, the CIA, the FBI, journalists and all people – not only in this country – who constantly ask themselves: Why and “how young individuals move from political extremism to being actively engaged in violent and/or terrorist groups.”


*   *   *   *   *

Before I start, lets go back for a moment to the quote at the beginning of this article. Many people these days scream:

All Muslims are Evil! No, they are not! People are Evil!

It is the biggest problem at the core of all social and political conflicts in the world since the beginning of our civilization. After Paris attacks there were a few incidents in New York, when Muslim women where attacked by men, who spit on them and told them to go home, back to their countries. Obviously for any coward, it is easier to attack a vulnerable woman than deal with retaliation from another Muslim man. Yet, very few of them knew that those women were the third generation of American Muslim and therefore – they were at home! That’s why it is imperative to understand that acting violent – contributing to suffering, discrimination and humiliation of Muslim minorities – we are not solving the problem – we only make things worse.

There will be no footnotes. All credit goes to Peter Neumann. My personal thoughts will start with SALT at the beginning of each paragraph or a sentence.

Vocabulary (SALT: I know terminology is boring, but this is the key to understanding the article, which will help in using all terms CORRECTLY going forward:

  • Al-Qaeda – means “the base” – historically it emerged from the group of foreign fighters who had supported the mujahadeen in fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. But, it wasn’t until 1988 when “al-Qaeda” – became a term defining the Afghan Arabs who took upon themselves the responsibility for defending Muslim Lands against foreign invasion and occupation.
  • Jihad – armed struggle
  • Umma – the global community of Muslims.
  • Islamist militancy – Muslim representing Sunni Islam (Wahhabism or Salafism) with a political agenda that proclaims that a worldwide community of believers (the umma) should be united or liberated under Islamic rule and the principal way of achieving this goal is through “armed struggle” (jihad). (SALT: this definition might have change/expanded in recent years).


  • Radicalization – a change in attitude that may lead individuals to embrace extra-constitutional methods of bringing about political change, including – ultimately – the use of force.
  • Recruitment – the process of joining a violent group. According to Dutch domestic intelligence: the process whereby individuals are spottedmonitored … and manipulated … with the final purpose of having these people participate in the jihad.
  • Extremism – advocates racial or religious supremacy and/or opposes the core principles of democracy and human dignity. The methods show disregard for the life, liberty, and human rights of others.
  • Terrorism – according to the UN “any action … that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants.”

A simple explanation to: WHY?

The Second- or third-generation descendants of Muslim immigrants are experiencing a powerful conflict of identity that makes them susceptible to Islamic militant ideology. Thus young Muslims are torn between the traditional culture of their parents and grandparents, which – in many respects – no longer makes any sense in the context of late modern, industrialized societies, and the cultures of Western societies, which – though superficially open and attractive – still regard them as foreigners and make it hard for them to intergrade.

Muslim Demographics in Europe

(SALT: in defeat of the common theory popularized by ignorant people all over the world that all Muslim are Evil)

In 2008 there were 20 million Muslims in Europe. At least seven millions in Eastern Europe and Balkans who won’t be considered as a potential threat – they lived there for centuries. The remaining 13 millions are spread across Western Europe with little in common beyond adhering to the same faith.

  • Germany – Turks
  • France – North Africans
  • Italy – North Africans
  • Spain – North Africans
  • England – South Asian Muslims and Middle East
  • Netherland – unique in having received Muslim immigrants from all these backgrounds.
  • Scandinavian Countries – Turkey, South Asia and Middle East and East Africa

Sharia Law – Islamic Law known as “path” or “way” saying that the public and some private aspect of life are regulated for those living in a legal system based on Islam. Most German Muslims’ families originated in Turkey, where the separation between state and religious law was settled more than 80 years ago and they would NOT be in favor of Sharia law. However, since nearly half of all British Muslims have roots in Pakistan, where the sharia continues to be a strong source of legislation as well as national identity they will of course support the indoctrination of sharia law (like death from the hands of the family for adultery).

Language: Muslims in France, Italy and Spain can use Arabic languages writings and media, because most of their communities are rooted in Arabic-speaking North Africa. Second- and third-generation European Muslims prefer European Languages as their primary means of communication.

Government policies towards Muslim– In France an open hostility against French Muslim who are banned from wearing religious symbols in public spaces and encounter problems when wanting to build houses of warship, seem to be far less susceptible to the ideology of the Islamist militia movement than for instant England, that has been the most accommodating in relation to Muslim faith practices and as a result is one with the largest extremist population. Therefore, the author wonders, if whether “being nice” to Muslims always produces the desired result of reducing the appeal of extremist ideologies.

The Islamist Militant movement

  1. In the period immediately following the September 11 attacks, Al-Qaeda was portrayed as hierarchical organization with a clear chain of command resembling a “spider web”, with Osama bin Laden at the center and sleeper cells around the world ready to strike at Western targets at any moment.
  2. French political scientist Oliver Roy and British terrorism analyst Peter Bergend argued that it was more of a “franchise” operation where the al-Qaeda leadership merely sponsored acts of terrorism subcontracting them to local groups.
  3. Others argued that al-Qaeda represented an amorphous [social] movement held together by a loosely networked transnational constituency.
  4. British Journalist Jason Burke argues that the group operated on three levels:
  • Hard core – Bin Lande, his deputy and their lieutenants
  • Network – made up of mujahedeen who took part in active “jihad”
  • The wider movement called cells

Three types of Islamist Militant Cells

  • The “chain of command” cell – recruitment is “top down” identified by the hard core individuals and integrated into the cell according to their skill, dedication, general profile and – of course – the operational requirement.
  • The “guided cell” – is largely of self-recruited, identified as “cliques” – small-scale networks based on friends and kin. They do however seek out “guided cells” to establish connections with the network.
  • The “genuine-starters” – self-recruited and maintaining no formal or informal association with the network. They have no access to resources and they are exclusively self-reliant in terms of funding, training or planning. They define their own agenda and decide for themselves when they wish to act.

SALT: The last cell “Genuine Starters” constitutes nowadays the most dangerous threat to all Western Countries – with Boston Marathon Bombers and Sand Bernardino attacks as an example. They are more difficult to detect and therefore it is hard to predict their actions.

Some experts argue that 2003 marked the beginning of the new phase of “leaderless jihad’ where formal hierarchies no longer matter and each local network carries out its attacks without coordination from above. Some others suggest that the al-Qaeda hard core has regrouped in the tribal areas of Pakistan asserting some of the control.

SALT: with the creation of ISIS in 2014 I would argue that both ideas were in fact correct. Now ISIS, which emerged from al-Qaeda continues to play the role of centralized hard core with the new base established in Raqqa, Syria, with a wide network of followers of local and foreign radicalized Muslim willing to join the Islamic State in a joined effort to reestablish the caliphate and an infinitive amount of self-recruited cells in Europe and the US who carry on the attacks in support of ISIS and caliphate.

Recruitment Grounds

Those are meeting points, which allow like-minded individuals to connect socially and identify “links to jihad.” Whenever Muslims meet or experience feelings of isolation and vulnerability, recruitment is possible.

  1. Places of Congregation – MOSQUE, INTERNET CAFES, SUMMER CAMPS, GYMS
  3. Recruitment “magnets” – RADICAL MOSQUES, RADICAL BOOKSHOPS (SALT – with the most powerful in the recent years INTERNET).

The Recruiters

The process of joining a violent extremist movement is a complex social activity in which both sides – the recruiter and the recruit – play active roles.

  1. Gateway Organizations – not directly involved in violence – may nevertheless facilitate individuals’ movement towards violent extremism.
  • To promote an ideological framework – INDOCTRINATION
  • To sustain the conditions of exclusion and separation in which violent extremism is likely to emerge – SUBVERSION
  • To make it possible to socialize for individuals with radicals to establish links to the jihad (SOCIALISATION).
  1. Radical Imams – even though they contributed to a relatively small number of European Muslims who have joined the Islamist Militant movement, “radical preachers” appear as “central points” in the early stages of the of the formation of a terrorist network – that is, when individuals are being radicalized, recruited and connected with each other. Their role is:
  • They are chief propagandists
  • To act as religious authorities
  • To serve as recruitment magnets
  • To create networks of networks
  1. Activists – leader of a terrorist cell who “makes things happen
  • Provides leadership and cohesion
  • Leads the process of cell expansion and/or recruitment
  • Is responsible for the cell’s external relations. If successful, the process may transform a group of self-starters into a “guided cell with an access to resources.

IMPORTANT: Many of the CELLS that had been recruited by activists consist of “bunches of guys” who had developed intense social bonds. Friendship and kinship are highly significant in driving the process of group formation. He, [the recruit, suddenly] has a group of people that listen to him. It makes him feel very important and very opinionated at the same time, and therefore he has some kind of influence amongst a group of people.

The Message

The interplay between social conditions and ideology which is of particular interest. Example: “I am a French Muslim … [Yet still] I am regarded with suspicion … On a day to day level, this is what it often comes down to … The fact that, in their eyes, you are a foreigner.”

There are three stages during which messages play a role in furthering the process of recruitment to the Islamist militant movement.

  1. Cognitive openings – Creating or exploiting a personal crises. Watching videos from the battlefronts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Syria to provoke “moral outrage” among the audience and produce “humiliation by proxy” and they introduce viewers to the idea of the “war against Islam”, which – according to the videos – is the war against every Muslim. Therefore it is imperative to stand up for other Muslims, who are suffering from injustice, discrimination, occupation and genocide.
  2. Frame alignment – the period during which individuals internalize the movement’s religious and, by extension, political doctrines. The religiously correct response to assaults against the umma is “jihad”.
  3. Justification of violence – the culmination of the process – Islamist Militants emphasize that as long as innocent Muslims are being killed and the umma is under attack, most forms of violent jihad qualify as defensive and are therefore legitimate in religious terms.

SALT: Again INTERNET comes to play, which nowadays plays an undeniably important role in the process of self-recruitment. Through INTERNTET/TECHNOLOGY, a potential self-recruit can go smoothly through all stages without even leaving his house.


Violent extremists use the Internet benefiting from its advantages:

  1. The low cost of Internet-based communication
  2. Unlimited access to much of the world’s knowledge it provides
  3. Ease with which it facilitates the creation of networks among likeminded individuals, even across great distances
  4. The degree of anonymity, which permits users to engage in otherwise risky or embarrassing behavior

SALT: Back in 2008 Peter Neumann wrote in his book “Joining al-Qaeda: Jihadist recruitment in Europe”: “there can be no doubt that the phenomenon of Internet supported recruitment will grow in Importance.” Well it definitely did and seven years later with the most recent example from San Bernardino shows that Internet became the most powerful tool in the recruitment process, which should not be ignored by any Western government.

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Peter Neumann argues – rightfully so – that one of the most important ways in fighting jihad is – disrupting recruitment. It can be achieved in various ways:

  • Prevent the emergence of recruitment magnets like radical bookshops or radical mosques in terms of locations or radical imams or virtual locations.
  • Address the situation in prisons as principal hubs for Islamist militant radicalization and recruitment. That includes heavy investment in staff and training.
  • Educational Institutions like schools and universities should play a prominent role in countering violent extremists’ efforts to gain support and mobilizes potential recruits.
  • The efforts of law-enforcement and intelligence agencies on detecting and detaining the activist leaders of cells.
  • Find a more consistent approach towards gateway organizations, which promote violence, anti-Semitism and encourage hatred towards other religions.
  • More attention needs to be paid to the Internet, which again requires investment in staff and technical means. Take measures to disrupt and close down all websites that promote the idea of jiahd and bread “self-recruitment.”

SALT: I would also add to it serious reforms within INS. I seriously never thought that California experiences a shortage of women, or for that matter, Muslim women, which would force a young man to engage in some sort of outsourcing in order to find himself a radical Muslim wife in Pakistan and bring her to the US with a blessing of the US INS. Personally, I think “legal” ways of bringing radical Muslim to the US through marriages are actually more dangerous than accepting refugees seeking safe place to live away from the war zone. So lets cut the crap.

And last, but not least –changing the law about the Gun Control in the USA as a form of prevention against ISIS is laughable. Also advising citizens to arm themselves against ISIS – like in case of the Ulster county Sheriff Paul van Blarcum, is outrages!!! It is a sign of paranoia combined with irresponsibility and it calls for the removal of this asshole from his office. I do not want to live in a totalitarian system. I have escaped one!!!

In reality, dispute about Gun Control on the government level should never be about changing the Constitutional right of all citizens to own or carry a gun – it should be:

  • Primo: about enforcing laws that submit each and every gun owner to a scrutinized security background check and providing a justification for the purchase. (I would really like to see how an average US Citizen justifies the need to own a machine gun 🙂 )
  • Secundo: implementing harsh laws that severely punish all agencies and their employees as well as all sellers – for neglecting to fulfill their responsibilities (background check), which result in mass shootings. I think it is time that we all start acting responsibly and stop blaming others for our shortcomings.

Lets all remember, that the key to understanding is learning and we should act upon our knowledge without destroying everyone else on our path.



2 responses to “A simple guide to understanding the concept of jihad – ideology and recruitment process.

  1. Excellent piece of writing, well researched, well organized, informative and up to the point.
    I believe it deserves to be published on a broader forum.


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