"Man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun."
Anthropologist Clifford Geertz
I. The Search for Identity. When it comes to some Jihadis especially those who have been third culture kids growing up in a country and having two identities can cause an identity crisis and tension. They may feel the drive to search for what the “real” or dominant identity is and feel compelled to prove that identity.
II. The Search for Meaning. What can be better than being at the center of the stage of a Cosmic Drama?
Jihadism offers this and no secular gang can offer such cosmic significance. To be part of a great narrative that gives one ultimate purpose and meaning is something that humans are attracted to. To be certain and to be central in the grand story of the Universe and existence is not a bad recruiting tool.
“I started getting interested in my deen [religious life] around 2012,” Hoda Muthana told BuzzFeed in an interview... “I felt like my life was so bland without it. Life has much more meaning when u know why ur here.” Muthana left America and went to join ISIS in Syria.
III. The Search for Justice. Grievances can be real (Assad’s crimes or other Tyrants) or perceived (middle class western recruits). Whether they be real or perceived to a human perceived is just as real. Not only those who are displaced and marginalized but those who feel displaced and marginalized.
IV. The Search for Asabiyyah. The great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun gave the term Asabiyyah for social cohesion, group feeling, and solidarity. It is the factor that gives one group the ability to rise over other groups that have little or lesser Asabiyyah. That is why a couple thousand ISIS members can take over Mosul from a larger and better funded military at the time. The Iraqi army had little Asabiyyah...they did not feel there was a State or government worth protecting. ISIS had the asabiyyah advantage.