The jihadi employment form asked the new recruits to rate their knowledge of Islam on a scale of one to three. And the Islamic State (IS) group applicants, herded into a hangar somewhere at the Syria-Turkey border, turned out to be overwhelmingly deemed ignorant. The extremist group could hardly have hoped for better.
At the height of the IS group’s drive for foot soldiers in 2013 and 2014, typical followers included the group of Frenchmen who went bar-hopping with their recruiter back home, the recent European convert who now hesitantly describes himself as gay, and two Britons who ordered “The Quran for Dummies” from Amazon to prepare for jihad in Syria. They were grouped in safe houses as a stream of IS imams filled in the gaps, according to court testimony and interviews.
“I realised that I was in the wrong place when they began to ask me questions on these forms like ‘when you die, who should we call?’” said the 32-year-old European convert, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
He went to Syria in 2014 and said new recruits were shown IS propaganda videos on Islam, and that the visiting imams repeatedly praised martyrdom. Far from home and unschooled in religion, most of the recruits were in little position to judge.
An Associated Press analysis of thousands of leaked IS documents reveals most of its recruits from its earliest days knew little about Islam.
According to the documents, which were acquired by the Syrian opposition site Zaman al-Was land, 70% of recruits were listed as having just “basic” knowledge of Shariah— the lowest possible choice.
Around 24% were categorised as having an “intermediate” knowledge, and just 5% were considered advanced students of Islam.
The group preys on this ignorance, because it allows extremists to impose an interpretation of Islam constructed to suit its goal of maximum territorial expansion and carnage as soon as recruits come under its way.”