Study: Over Half Indicted for Islamic State Ties in U.S. Are ‘Recent Converts to Islam’

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An estimated 49 percent of individuals indicted for carrying out or conspiring to perpetrate a terrorist attack linked to the Islamic State are “from established Muslim countries,” according to the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST), a global security affairs research institute based at the University of Chicago.

The remaining 51 percent are “recent converts to Islam,” adds the research institute, noting, “Those indicted for attacking or conspiring to conduct an attack in the US are as likely to be US-born converts to Islam as to be from established Muslim communities.”

Nevertheless, the institute notes, “Stopping immigration from Islamic countries won’t prevent support for ISIS in the US.”

CPOST based its study on 112 cases of individuals indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice between March 2014 and August 2016 for Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)-related offenses.

Among the ISIS-related offenses included in the study are: attacking or conspiring to attack U.S. targets, joining or conspiring to join ISIS overseas, and providing support to others seeking to attack or travel on behalf of ISIS.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is mobilizing sympathizers in the US at rates much higher than seen for previous terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda,” reports CPOST, adding, “ISIS is mobilizing US indictees at a rate four times higher than al-Qaeda’s.”

CPOST found that the vast majority (83 percent) of ISIS indictees are naturalized U.S. citizens, and 65 percent are born in this country.

“ISIS indictees are significantly more likely to be US citizens and recent converts than their al-Qaeda indictee counterparts,” points out the study. CPOST found that “a significant proportion” (30 percent, including 43 percent U.S.-born) of indictees “are converts from outside established Muslim communities.”

The study attributes ISIS’s success in the United States over other, older jihadist groups to its effective propaganda strategy.

ISIS propaganda tools, namely videos, reportedly played an essential role in the radicalization of indictees.

According to the study, “83% watched ISIS propaganda videos, including execution videos and lectures by terrorist leaders.”

To defeat ISIS, the U.S. must better understand the group’s propaganda tools, the study concludes.

The London-based International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) found that ISIS jihadists believe the mainstream media tools they use to produce and disseminate propaganda are “more important than military jihad” and “capable of exceeding even the “most powerful bombs.”

“Weeks after its capture of Mosul in 2014, the Islamic State set about transforming its strategic trajectory. Through an avalanche of media products, it worked to aggressively insert itself into the global public discourse and, in turn, popularize its brand, polarize adversary populations and drive rivals into the ideological side-lines,” notes ICSR.


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