The Heat explores why Westerners join extremist groups

The Heat

About 15,000 foreign fighters are believed to be in Iraq and Syria fighting with the Islamic State and other extremist groups. What’s drawing Westerners to ISIL? What role do governments in the West have to play?

Experts say Westerners who join ISIL do so because they feel disconnected from mainstream society, and look to radical ideologies for a sense of purpose and identity. The foreign fighters joining ISIL are said to come from more than 80 countries, including France and the United Kingdom, which means an increasing number of countries will face the challenge of fighters returning home from the Syria-Iraq conflict. Britain has sought to ban all returning fighters, in fear that they will carry out terrorist attacks on home soil.

Anjem Choudary, a well-known Islamic activist from Britain, joined The Heat for more on this issue. Choudary was arrested in September on suspicion of encouraging radicalism.

Follow Anjem Choudary on Twitter @anjemchoudary

The Heat explores why Westerners join extremist groups, pt. 1

About 15,000 foreign fighters are believed to be in Iraq and Syria fighting with the Islamic State and other extremist groups. What is drawing Westerners to ISIL? What role do governments in the West have to play? Anjem Choudary, a well-known Islamic activist from Britain, joined The Heat for more on this issue.

The former Pakistani ambassador to the U.K. and Northern Ireland said Europe faces a huge challenge in dealing with its extremist Muslim citizens. Akbar Ahmed has done extensive research on Islam in Europe, and has studied what factors lead to Muslim youths joining extremist groups — which is nothing new, he said.

“In Afghanistan, Westerners came to fight. In Bosnia, in the 1990s, you had a lot of British youth going there to help or even fight. You always had this streak in Western society where the youth is motivated by some kind of idealism,” Ahmed said. “I call it the Hemingway Factor. In the 1930s, Ernest Hemingway went to Spain, they were fighting the Fascists, and wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls. So this is embedded in western society.”

Follow Akbar Ahmed on Twitter @AskAkbar

The Heat explores why Westerners join extremist groups, pt. 2

The former Pakistani ambassador to the U.K. and Northern Ireland said Europe faces a huge challenge in dealing with its extremist Muslim citizens. Akbar Ahmed has done extensive research on Islam in Europe, and has studied what factors lead to Muslim youths joining extremist groups.

Two former Islamic radicals also joined the show, to share their stories about why they joined and later defected from extremist groups. Mubin Sheikh is a former extremist who later turned into an informant for the Canadian intelligence service. He played a major role in thwarting a terror plot in 2006. Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic thinker and reformer, as well as a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt.

Follow Mubin Sheikh on Twitter @CaliphateCop

The Heat explores why Westerners join extremist groups, pt. 3

Two former Islamic radicals also joined the show, to share their stories about why they joined and later defected from extremist groups. Mubin Sheikh is a former extremist who later turned into an informant for the Canadian intelligence service. He played a major role in thwarting a terror plot in 2006. Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic thinker and reformer, as well as a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt.