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An investigation of recruitment strategies by terrorist and extremist organisations: a case study of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

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Whilst terrorism is a difficult phenomenon to define due to lack of a universally accepted definition when gleaning over the literature, the art of terrorist recruitment itself is a rather complex phenomenon which requires understanding of various other factors to explain it. This paper offers, extensively, the various definitions of terrorism and asks pertinent questions which respond to the reasons behind individuals choosing to commit to violence, in general, with religious political violence at the fore. This highlights through qualitative and theoretical undertaking the Clash of Civilisations once predicted by Huntington between the secular and non-secular as a means to explaining some of the religiously and politically motivated extremism. Modernisation as well as Relative Deprivation theories are further used to serve as a backdrop to the study. Modernisation speaks to the increasing spread of the phenomenon of westernisation globally which has come into conflict with cultural and religious ideologies. Relative Deprivation on the other hand focuses on the forms of deprivation that are perceived to have been created by westernisation resulting in the dissatisfaction which drives certain individuals to become terrorists. The methodology employed is a desktop qualitative interpretivist (phenomenology) approach using a case study to understand the problem that has been identified. Once the important questions are investigated and key objectives addressed, various recruitment strategies by terrorist organisations are explored and engaged, highlighting that each strategy is almost tailored towards luring a particular kind of recruit. ISIS is used as the relevant case study to highlight their recruitment strategies as well as their global reach which has shaken the world and has at least had many regions exploring the options of taking up heightened security measures than usual. No region is immune to this vile threat. Lastly recommendations are put forth on how to curb terrorism and the research further warns against blanket approaches to terrorism warning that despite the common denominator being violence, different groups execute their attacks differently calling for diverse solutions.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.