Follow by Email

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fighting ISIS With Maslow's Hierarchy -- Let's Try Again

Since this blog is getting a lot of hits as a result of the Synagen/Intellux/Neurocell scam, I'm going to repost, right here, what I think is the most important post on this blog, and which has received too little attention to date.

I'm doing so in reaction to the recent attacks in Paris.  But I'm not going to update the post.  It's long, but the summary is that we need to offer Muslim youth a faith-based alternative to ISIS, for the sake of both Islam and the rest of the world.

Even if you got here because you were searching for information about the fake CNN report (which as far as I can tell is mostly promoting sugar pills called "Neurocell," but which has in the past been used to promote Synagen and Intellux), I ask that you read this post as well, and if you can, pass it on. If it gets passed on enough, maybe someone in a position to do act on it will do so.  The fate of the world may hinge on it.


This post answers the question "What can Muslims do to reclaim their 'beautiful religion'?" posed by a group of 23 prominent Muslim reformers in a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times on Jan. 11, 2015. I wasn't invited to President Obama's recent "Summit on Violent Extremism"; if you happen to see him, say "hi" to him for me, and tell him about this proposal.

(original draft:  February 18, 2015)
Good story in NYT today about a young Egyptian man, Islam Yaken, who has now ended up fighting with ISIS.  The article is From a Private School in Cairo to ISIS Killing Fields in Syria (With Video), by Mona El-Naggar.

This is a boy who was raised in a normal Egyptian family, with normal and non-violent values.  His ambition was to be a personal trainer with a hot girlfriend.  But Egypt fell apart, and he couldn't land a job at a good gym,  He became a follower of Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Yacoub, a Salafist preacher with tens of thousands of followers, who appeared regularly on Egyptian TV and who had a large on-line presence.  And before you knew it, he was training with ISIS in Syria.  Now he is a personal trainer for the mujahedeen.  He has posed for a photograph, smiling, with a decapitated body.

I won't show you that picture, but here's an "after-and-before" shot:

It's pretty easy to understand why Islam Yaken ended up the way he did.  ISIS met his needs, and offered a short-cut to something akin to self-actualization.  Let's consider the situation through the prism of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs:

I should start by pointing out that recent research (and common sense) suggests that Maslow oversimplified -- that one can gain considerable benefit from the higher levels of the pyramid, even if lower levels are not being met.  It is also easy to add additional "needs" to the hierarchy, including for example (between esteem and self-actualization) cognitive needs (the need to know and understand), aesthetic needs (the need to appreciate beauty), and transcendence needs (the need to teach others to self-actualize).  Additional understanding of Maslow is available at this very good site.

To continue the digression, we can also consider the recent revamping of the Maslow's hierarchy by evolutionary psychologist Douglas Kenrick and his team.  Here's what their pyramid looks like:

So for them, it's all about sex and reproduction in the end.  I personally prefer Maslow, because I like to think that human beings are able to transcend biology.  And I think most members of ISIS would agree with me, just as "parenting" is probably not exactly on the top of any of their lists.  But I do agree that mate acquisition is a strong motivating force that isn't clearly reflected in Maslow's hierarchy (he simply has sex at the bottom).  That's a useful point that is certainly not lost on ISIS recruiters, since they seem to be having considerable success at recruiting ISIS brides.  An eye-opening discussion of that phenomenon -- which resonates with the discussion of Maslow's needs hierarchy in this post --  can be found here.

Let's stick with Maslow for now, while keeping an eye on the idea of sex as a motivator.  Here's how the "needs" hierarchy applies to someone like Islam Yaken.  He lives in a country that is in turmoil, and after finishing school, he knows he must meet his own needs.  But he can't find a paying job in the field he is interested in (personal training).   Let's assume that his physiological needs and need for safety are being met, but there is an element of uncertainty for both of these, given the state of Egypt.  His social needs are probably where things start to really break down.  He can't find a hot enough girlfriend because he doesn't have a good enough job.  This -- plus the fact that he is getting turned down for jobs -- makes it clear that he's not going to reach the next level (esteem), much less self-actualization.

But ISIS offers to sweep away all impediments to something that passes for self-actualization, and even transcendence.  Recruits are fed and treated well, so their physiological needs are met.  The religious aspect takes care of "safety" -- there is no need to fear death if there is a promise of a glorious afterlife.  Social needs are met as a result of being thrown in with a large group of like minded young men.  The needs for -- and motivation provided by -- love and sex are either served by the ever-increasing ranks of ISIS brides, or they are replaced by their usual substitutes -- violence and misogyny (and probably pornography, if the Bin Laden compound is representative).

Self-actualization -- something that only one or two people in a hundred actually achieve the normal way -- is also possible.   Broadly stated, the needs of self-actualization are (1) realizing personal potential, (2) self-fulfillment, and (3) seeking personal growth and peak experiences.  It is not hard to see how ISIS seems to offer all three, to someone who has drunk the Koolaid.  They feel that they are "realizing personal potential" by accomplishing things as part of the group (winning battles, killing people).  They find self-fulfillment in serving their God in that way.  And they feel as though they are growing and having peak experiences as they become better and better killers, all in the name of a their beloved God.

And even transcendence is possible -- Islam Yaken may well have achieved a form of it, since he is now working as a personal trainer -- and making personal training videos -- for other ISIS fighters.

It is interesting to observe that ISIS recruits probably do go through something that approximates the behaviors leading to self-actualization:

(a) Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
(b) Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
(c) Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
(d) Avoiding pretense ('game playing') and being honest;
(e) Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
(f) Taking responsibility and working hard;
(g) Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

It might go too far to say that these people actually share characteristics of self-actualizers, but here is Maslow's list of them, for anyone out there seeking self-actualization:

1. They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
2. Accept themselves and others for what they are;
3. Spontaneous in thought and action;
4. Problem-centered (not self-centered);
5. Unusual sense of humor;
6. Able to look at life objectively;
7. Highly creative;
8. Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
9. Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
10. Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
11. Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
12. Peak experiences;
13. Need for privacy;
14. Democratic attitudes;
15. Strong moral/ethical standards.
Obviously, ISIS fighters don't have all of these characteristics in the traditional sense, but when you think about it in the context of their lives, their immediate community, and their religion, an experienced and conscientious ISIS fighter may well exhibit most if not all of these traits.  In other words, from the perspective of his warped religion and social group, an ISIS fighter certainly has (for example) "strong moral/ethical standards" (No. 15) and may well believe himself to be deeply concerned for the welfare of humanity (No. 9).

So that's my point.  ISIS clearly has a lot to offer these young men.  Although it's quite clear that economic desperation plays a big role in ISIS recruiting, there is much more to it than that.  So merely solving the economic problems of the region (something that is probably impossible anyway, at least in the short term) is not going to put much of a dent into ISIS recruiting.

What's the solution?  We need to offer Muslim youth an alternative path to self-actualization.  It could be something that matches the ISIS model, in all things but the violence.  In other words, it could recruit young men and put them to work in teams, for constructive ends.  Maybe just building out the infrastructure of some of these countries.

Another option is simply to create a "counter-ISIS".  Make it clear to the youth that ISIS itself is a corruption of religion, and that the true path means defeating ISIS.  Then offer the youth the same kind of  training, comaraderie, and paths to self-actualization that ISIS does, but all in the name of defeating ISIS, for the sake of Islam.

How much would doing this cost?  ISIS claims to have a budget of $2 billion for 2015, which they say will leave them with a $250 million surplus.  Most of that goes to the salaries of its fighters -- who are paid $500-$600 a month, and it also "includes monthly wages for the poor and disabled, orphans, widows and families of individuals killed in the airstrikes carried out by Iraqi and US-led coalition forces," as well as "daily meals and assistance to residents of the cities it controls, in an attempt to win local support." (Source: It is not clear what they spend on equipment; most of their equipment is what they've taken from the Iraqi army.  As of July 2014, they had about 30 tanks, and they may have "control" over a number of military aircraft, although it's not clear they know how to fly them.

In other words, the "money" part of the equation should be no big deal.  Bill Gates could fund it out of chump change.  But really, it would be better if the Muslims themselves were to fund it.  Groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda have been and are being funded by oil money.  There is plenty of oil money.  Why don't some of the "good guys" who have that oil money use it to build up groups that will compete with ISIS, in either direction -- the counter-ISIS, or the constructive-ISIS?  And of course, defeating ISIS will be its own reward -- ISIS currently controls oil refineries in Northern Iraq and Syria that spew out $1-2 million dollars a day worth of oil.  Let's say whoever defeats ISIS gets that oil; or at least a hefty reward from the governments of Syria and Iraq.  See also below, where I have listed the personal wealth of various heads of state who might be interested in stopping ISIS.

Let me make this really clear:  ISIS is a cancer on the Islamic faith.  What Islam and the Muslim world need is an antidote to ISIS.  That antidote could be created by forming a counter-ISIS.  Religious leaders could be the recruiters -- explaining that the need to fight ISIS is a religious duty. With proper funding, the counter-ISIS could offer everything that ISIS offers -- meeting all of Maslow's needs, and offering the opportunity for true self-actualization and transcendence.  What we need is someone to step forward and begin to make this a reality.

The counter-ISIS would defeat the evil ISIS more in recruiting than on the battlefield.  Remember, the typical ISIS recruit does not start off as a radical Muslim.  Islam Yaken didn't; neither did the French brothers who shot up Charlie Hebdo, and neither did the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston.  At the start, these recruits are not particularly religious.  ISIS recruits are just normal teenagers and twenty-somethings, with normal teenage desires and half-formed thoughts, who are looking for a quick way to scale the Maslovian hierarchy of needs.  If given the choice between an organization that is committed to extreme violence against innocent men, women, and children (all in the name of religion), and an otherwise-identical organization committed to protecting innocent men, women, and children (also in the name of religion), I think most young Muslim men would make the sensible choice.

This is not something that, for example, the Iraqi army can offer.  There is something romantic and appealing in the idea of ISIS fighters crossing international borders to join up with other units, etc.  The counter-ISIS needs to generate the same kind of romance for its recruits, in a way that a state-led semi-secular army simply cannot do.

So far in this post, I haven't delved into the Sunni-Shia question.  Here's some information from Wikipedia that can guide further discussion:

According to The New York Times, "All of the most influential jihadist theorists are criticizing the Islamic State as deviant, calling its self-proclaimed caliphate null and void" and have denounced it for its beheading of journalists and aid workers.  ISIL is widely denounced by a broad range of Islamic clerics, including al-Qaeda-oriented and Saudi clerics.
Sunni critics, including Salafi and jihadist muftis such as Adnan al-Aroor and Abu Basir al-Tartusi, say that ISIL and related terrorist groups are not Sunnis, but modern-day Khawarij—Muslims who have stepped outside the mainstream of Islam—serving an imperial anti-Islamic agenda.  Other critics of ISIL's brand of Sunni Islam include Salafists who previously publicly supported jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda, for example the Saudi government official Saleh Al-Fawzan, known for his extremist views, who claims that ISIL is a creation of "Zionists, Crusaders and Safavids", and the Jordanian-Palestinian writer Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the former spiritual mentor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was released from prison in Jordan in June 2014 and accuses ISIL of driving a wedge between Muslims
So at the outset, the organizers of the counter-ISIS/ISIL need to decide whether it should be open only to Sunni, or to Sunni and Shia alike.  Since ISIS is a deviant outgrowth of Sunni, my first instinct would be to make it open to Sunnis only.  That way the war and recruiting competition between ISIS and counter-ISIS would not be tinged with any sectarian differences.  Of course, Shia Muslims would still have a strong interest in contributing to the funding of a counter-ISIS.

[Here's a link to a recent NYT article discussing current work being done by Muslims to counter ISIS's recruiting efforts in the United States.  Good work, but not nearly as likely to be effective as a true counter-ISIS]

The next step is to agree on a set of core Islamic principles that can serve as a basis for out-jihading the terrorists.  I found the following core principles of Islam here, and they look pretty good to me:

1.   To affirm the Oneness of God - the praised and glorified Creator – in His essence and His attributes.
2.    To affirm that God alone should be worshipped and that no other being should be worshipped along with Him or instead of Him.
3.    To safeguard human welfare and oppose corruption and evil.  Thus, everything that safeguards faith, life, reason, wealth and lineage are part of this human welfare that religion protects.  On the other hand, anything that endangers these five universal needs is a form of corruption that religion opposes and prohibits.
4.    To invite the people to the highest level of virtue, moral values, and noble customs.
Number 3 in particular seems to be an appropriate basis for launching a holy war against ISIS itself.

And the same site gives the following as Islam's essential beliefs (paraphrased by me):

1)     Belief in God – Strict monotheism.
2)     Belief in the Angels – God’s faithful servants and emissaries; capable only of obeying his commands.
3)     Belief in the Prophets and Messengers – Including Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and John the Baptist, with Muhammad (may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him), having been sent as the final prophet and the completion of God’s Message to humanity.
4)     Belief in the Sacred Texts – Including the Books of Abraham, the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but with the observation that some of these books, over the course of time and translation, have lost the original message, which the Quran, revealed in the Arabic language, preserves today in its pristine form.
5)     Belief in Life after Death – The Day of Judgment, on which all will gather in the presence of God and each individual will be questioned about their life in the world and how they lived it, and will be sent to heaven or hell accordingly.
6)     Belief in the Divine Decree – the belief that nothing happens except by God’s Will and with His full knowledge.  

If you know any non-terrorist Muslims with connections to oil money, send them a link to this post.

I found a list of the personal wealth of various heads of state and recently-ousted heads of state on Wikipedia.  Here is a list of some of the Muslims -- must of them Sunnis:

Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei,

Worth $20 billion in 2011.  Islam is his country's official religion and he is "Head of Religion," there.  Right now, he is known for his poorly maintained fancy car collection, which apparently consists of thousands of expensive cars, including his own gold-plated Rolls Royce. His current Wikipedia entry bespeaks profligacy and shallowness:

The Sultan has one of the world's largest and most expensive and rarest car collections, the exact extent of which has been subject of speculation[by whom?] as there are no official or verifiable reports, some sources[which?] have speculated about it to be in the hundreds while some even suggested thousands, some even say between 3,000 and 4,000 cars.[citation needed] While a prominent collector, a variety of reports have been released showing that the car collection is not treated well. In one, it was reported 2000 of the original 2500 cars were so poorly kept, and had been left to 'rot' for over a decade, that they were beyond saving.[37] Despite this, some brands including Lamborghini, Bentley, Ferrari, Bugatti, and Rolls-Royce, make new cars exclusively for the Sultan that are not sold or advertised to the public.[citation needed]
 The Sultan's involvement in sports includes playing polo, golf, and badminton. He also enjoys race car driving, piloting helicopters, and aircraft. On international trips, he pilots his own Boeing 747-400.[38] He is also very fond of gold and has a Rolls-Royce coated with 24k gold.
He often enjoys fine cigars, and has a notable favourite, the Gurkha Centurian, that was commissioned specifically for him.[39]
 His 1,800-room palace, the Istana Nurul Iman, is considered the world’s largest private residence.
Obviously, his Wikipedia entry would look very different if he were to be instrumental in defeating ISIS.  If he were to contribute $5 billion dollars to the formation of a counter-ISIS, he would still have $15 billion left.

Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud:  The Late King of Saudi Arabia

Worth $18 billion in 2011.  A Sunni Muslim.  I haven't troubled to figure out who has inherited his wealth, but whoever it is could do wonders for the King's legacy -- and the international credibility of Saudi Arabia -- by contributing a few billion to the counter-ISIS.

Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan: President of the United Arab Emirates, Emir Sheikh of Abu Dhabi

Worth $15 billion in 2011. A Sunni Muslim.  Already known for his philanthropy, becoming a founding member of the counter-ISIS could make him a true hero in the Muslim world.

Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum: Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates,Emir Sheikh of Dubai

Worth $4 billion in 2011.  A Sunni, known for charitable works (including helping Afghanis displaced by U.S. bombing) as well as the World’s third largest yacht.

Mohammed VI: King of Morocco

Worth $2.5 billion in 2011.  A Sunni, known for presiding over a government that is considered corrupt at all levels.  His palace reportedly has an operating budget of $960,000 per day – mostly for personnel, clothes, and car repairs. 

Nursultan Nazarbayev: President of Kazakhstan

Worth  $1 billion in 2006.  A Sunni, who has worked to establish interdenominational dialogue among World Religions, and to combat religious extremism.

Qaboos bin Said al Said: Sultan of Oman

Worth $700 million in 2010.  Ibadi Muslim, known for his super-yachts.

Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah:  Emir of Kuwait

Worth $350 million in 2010.  A Sunni, known for passing a law that increased his salary from 8 million KD (approximately $25 million) to 50 million KD (approximately $188 million) per year. 

Hosni Mubarak:  Ousted President of Egypt

Worth $40–$70 billion in 2011.  A Sunni, known for all kinds of things, but who recently won a retrial on embezzlement charges – the last remaining charges against him.  Not clear who controls his fortune right now, but that’s a lot of money that could do a lot of good for counter-ISIS.

Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali:  Ousted President of Tunisia

Worth $7.8 billion in 2011.  A Sunni, known for corruption charges; his wife, Leila Ben Ali is known for charitable works, as well as allegedly taking 1.5 tonnes of gold from the Tunisian central bank when she and her family fled to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  1.5 tonnes is 1500 kilograms.  A kilogram of gold is worth $38,706, so (if true) she ended up with gold worth over $58 million.

Saad Hariri:  Ousted Prime Minister of Lebanon

Worth $2.0 billion in 2011.  A Sunni; not much known about current wealth and whereabouts.

*   *   *   *   *

And here, unedited, is a simple list of Saudi billionaires (source: Wikipedia):

NameEstimated wealth (USD)Source
Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud$21.6 billionInvestments
Mohammed Al Amoudi$9 billionOil
Sulaiman Al Rajhi[3]$8.4 billionBanking
Maan Al-Sanea$8.1 billionConstruction, finance
Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber$5.3 billionReal estate, hotels
Saleh Kamel$5 billionDiversified
Saleh Al Rajhi$4.7 billionBanking
Saad Hariri[4]$3.3 billionConstruction, investments
Abdullah Al Rajhi$3.2 billionBanking
Sulaiman Algosaibi$3 billionDiversified
Khalid Bin Mahfouz & family[5]$2.8 billionBanking
Aymin Hariri[6]$2.3 billionInheritance
Mohammed Al Rajhi$1.6 billionBanking

Here's a list of UAE billionaires (source: Wikipedia)

#NameNet worth (USD)CitizenshipSources of wealth
1DecreaseAbdul Aziz Al Ghurair and Family$8.9 billion Decrease United Arab EmiratesMashreq Bank
2IncreaseMajid Al Futtaim$3.0 billion Increase United Arab EmiratesDiversified
3IncreaseKhalaf Al Habtoor$2.5 billion Increase United Arab EmiratesDiversified
4IncreaseAbdulla Al Futtaim$2.0 billion Increase United Arab EmiratesDiversified

And here's a cute site that shows some of the really productive stuff that some of these guys do with their wealth.  Check out the link, but be sure to come back here.  There's more below.

Oh, look what I found.  A list of all richest Arabs, from Forbes, March 2014 (source: Wikipedia).  So there will be some duplication from the above.  Still, I'm not going to delete the above tables just yet.

#RankNameNet worth(USD)CitizenshipSources of wealth
1Steady26Al-waleed Bin Talal$20.6 billion Decrease Saudi Arabia  LebanonKingdom Holdings Company
2Increase27Sheikh Ahmed Al Juffaliand Family$19.8 billion Increase Saudi ArabiaE. A. Juffali and Brothers
3Increase63Mohammed Al Amoudi$10.5 billion Decrease Saudi ArabiaCoral Petroleum Holding
4Steady77Nasser Al Kharafi and Family$10.4 billion Decrease KuwaitM. Kharafi & Sons
5Steady120Soleiman Al Rajhi$7.7 billion Increase Saudi ArabiaDiversified.
6Decrease136Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber$7.0 billion Decrease Saudi ArabiaDiversified.
7Decrease182Nassef Sawiris$5.6 billion Increase EgyptOrascom Construction Industries (OCI)
8Decrease310Naguib Sawiris$3.5 billion Increase Egypt
9Decrease393Othman Benjelloun$3.1 billion Increase MoroccoBMCE Bank
10Decrease393Issad Rebrab$3.2 billion Increase AlgeriaCevital
11Decrease393Onsi Sawaris$3.0 billion Increase EgyptOrascom Construction Industries (OCI)
12Increase409Najib Mikati$3.0 billion Increase Lebanon
13Decrease420Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair and Family$2.7 billion Increase United Arab Emirates
14Decrease459Abdullah Al Rajhi$2.5 billion Increase Saudi Arabia
15Decrease459Bahaa Hariri$2.5 billion Increase Lebanon
16Decrease512Mohammed Al Issa$2.3 billion Decrease Saudi ArabiaDiversified
17Decrease513Miloud Chaabi$2.1 billion Decrease MoroccoDiversified
18Decrease595Saad Hariri$2 billion Increase Lebanon
19Decrease595Mohamed Mansour$2 billion Increase Egypt
20Increase692Faisal Al Anbar$1.9 billion Increase Saudi Arabia
21Increase692Jean Y. Abi Jaoude$1.8 billion Increase LebanonDiversified
22Decrease736Saleh Abdullah Kamel$1.7 billion Increase Saudi Arabia
23Increase736Saif Al Ghurair and Family$1.7 billion Increase United Arab Emirates
24Decrease833Aziz Akhannouch$1.4 billion Increase MoroccoAkwa Group
25Increase879Samih Sawiris$1.4 billion Increase Egypt
26Increase879Bassam Al Ghanim$1.4 billion Increase Kuwait
27Increase879Kutayba Al Ghanim$1.4 billion Increase Kuwait
28Increase879P. N. C. Menon$1.4 billion Increase Oman
29Increase938Abdulla Al Futtaim$1.3 billion Increase United Arab Emirates
30Decrease992Anas Sefrioui$1.3 billion Decrease MoroccoDiversified
31Increase993Majid Al Futtaim$1.2 billion Increase United Arab Emirates
32Increase993Mohamed Al Fayed and Family$1.2 billion Increase Egypt
33Increase993Mohammad Al Barwaniand Family$1.1 billion Increase Oman

If you know any of these people -- or anyone with similar amounts of wealth and an interest in defeating ISIS and empowering Muslim youth -- let them know that they may well win a Nobel Peace Prize in it for them.  What better use of Nobel's prize money than to stop this cancer?

[I'm not sure I can solve all of the world's problems in a single blog post, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out the exact parallel we have right here in the United States with gangs and drug dealing operations.  Kids -- mostly African American or Hispanic -- who have been shortchanged by the U.S. education system and are otherwise destined for a life scraping along trying to satisfy the lower levels of Maslow's hierarchy instantly have the opportunity to become part of an organization in which they have immediate esteem and opportunities for a form of self-actualization. We will only solve the "gang" problem if we figure out ways that society can offer these young men realistic paths toward esteem and self-actualization that do not require criminal activity.  I personally don't see anything wrong with encouraging modern day American youth to convert to Islam and join the Counter-ISIS; perhaps the Nation of Islam  -- i.e. the Black Muslims -- can get involved].

Here's a map of the middle east and its surroundings, in case you're wondering where some of countries named in this post are.  I believe that most of the countries on this map have significant Muslim populations:

And here's a nice interactive map, courtesy of Google:

One final note:  Although Fareed Zakaria gushes that Yaken was "profiled brilliantly" in Mona El-Naggar's article, Ms. El-Naggar does not seem to have even googled Islam Yaken.  If she had, she would certainly have mentioned his nickname -- "the hipster jihadi" -- and Karen Kuruvilla's August 2014 profile of him in the New York Daily News, which offers additional interesting details about his background (and which seems to be mostly derived from an earlier profile in the Telegraph).  The earlier profiles make him seem wealthier and more educated than hers (although there is no flat-out contradiction).  She should also have addressed the possibility that he may have died in December 2014: He reportedly "achieved martyrdom" in a suicide mission, and left an open letter to his parents.  If that wasn't true, then Ms. El-Naggar should have explained why not.



    There are lots of committed do-gooding opportunities for middle class kids (the IRC, MSF, Red Crescent): the toxic bullies who travel overseas to join ISIL would poison a functional organization. The Westerners in ISIL are decorative fluff -- icing on the cake -- the core of "ISIL" is, of course, people who blame the United States foreign policy for "destroying" their lives (and, even on the Syrian side, the US is not without blame for encouraging the "Arab Spring" without making it clear just how empty our encouragement was). It will take more than a few hundred billion dollars to create a genuinely functional civil society in Iraq and Syria -- the trillion dollars already budgeted for that goal in Iraq was mostly embezzled and stolen -- and even then there will be a residual "lost generation" who blame the US for the deaths of their families and their own damaged childhoods.

    1. I think you and I agree on most points. But I don't necessarily see the kids who join ISIS as "toxic bullies." At least from what we hear about the western ones, they seem like fairly normal kids, maybe just a bit disaffected.

      What I'm trying to say is that it shouldn't cost that much to create an organization that would allow these kids -- and also all of the Muslim children of the "lost generation" that have a genuine grievance against the United States -- to self-actualize in a more productive, and even pro-Islam way. And use that to counter ISIS.

      We probably disagree about the "core" of ISIS/ISIL. Yes, (understandable) disagreement with the clueless US foreign policy (maim, capture, kill and leave) is what motivates their leadership, but they need to attract young people willing to blow themselves up in the name of Islam. And they are able to do that by offering the young people self-actualization. Without youthful recruits, ISIL would crumble from within. That's where we need to compete with them.

      Remember also that the 20-somethings that are blowing themselves up for ISIS today were mostly under 10 years old when 9/11 happened, and when we invaded Iraq. We created them, but we could also help to re-create them.

      I'm not proposing pouring more money into that area -- as you say, that has not worked out well for us. I'm saying that Islam needs to work its issues out from within, and all it would take is a few of those Sunni oil billionaires putting up some money for that purpose (to help counteract the billions that seem to be getting put up for truly evil purposes). It could all be done in the name of Islam.

      But for some reason, I seem to be the only person anywhere saying this.

    2. "If I knew how to reduce the probabilities of a CNBC-type [Cyber Nuclear Biological Chemical] mass attack by 5%, all my money would go to that. "

      - Warren Buffett

    3. Send him a link to this post. I still think the Sunni billionaires ought to step up to the plate here, but a billion dollars is a billion dollars. Funding a counter-ISIS with a billion dollars would definitely reduce the chance of a CNBC attack by 5%.