The enduring appeal of violent jihad

The Islamic State group (IS) has lost its short-lived caliphate in the Middle East, with hundreds – possibly thousands – of would-be international jihadists stuck in limbo, and tempted to return home despite fears of arrest and imprisonment.

Yet the scourge of violent jihad – where extremists attack those they perceive to be enemies of Islam – has not gone away.

The hotel attack in Nairobi two weeks ago by the al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group al-Shabab was an uncomfortable reminder. Large swathes of north-west Africa are now vulnerable to attack by marauding jihadists. Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan remain ideal refuges for jihadists.

So just what is the enduring appeal of violent jihad for certain people around the world?

Peer pressure

The decision to leave behind a normal, law-abiding life, often abandoning family and loved ones to embark on what is frequently a short, dangerous career is a personal one. Jihadist recruiters will play on the notion of victimhood, sacrifice and rallying to a higher cause in the name of religion.

For nearly 20 years now the internet has been awash with gruesome propaganda videos, some portraying the collective suffering of Muslims in various parts of the…

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