Russell Brand: Westerners join ISIS because of alienation, not Islam
On the latest episode of The Trews, British comedian and social activist Russell Brand examines why young people raised in the West who have little or no knowledge of Islam are leaving home to join ISIS.
“With the identity of ‘Jihadi John’ being released,” Brand began, “we ask ‘if joining ISIS and beheading people is the solution, then what is the problem?'”
“Why would a computer programmer want to join ISIS and chop off people’s heads?” he asked. “Mohammed Emwazi was once a star salesman for a Kuwaiti [information technology] company. According to his former boss, he was ‘the best employee we ever had.’ That’s almost too much to comprehend, isn’t it?”
“This story points to a much broader problem,” he said, referencing a Guardian piece by Kenan Malik in which he notes that ISIS has doubled in membership in the past year thanks, in large part, to Western recruits.
Brand then addressed why people might be attracted to ISIS. “The argument that there’s something inherently evil in the Koran doesn’t make sense,” he said, “because a study of the purchasing habits of these jihadi recruits found that many of them were buying The Koran for Dummies or Islam for Beginners. So it’s not like they’ve been indoctrinated for years and year, and they finally hit a breaking point where the only way they could express their Muslim faith is chopping people’s heads off.”
“They didn’t know anything about it. It was like the last minute revision the night before a [school] exam. ‘Well, I’m off to join ISIS,'” he said, imitating a new recruit. “‘But what exactly is in the Koran?'”
After noting that over half of the British and French jihadists come from comfortable, non-Muslim backgrounds, Brand argued that “it’s more to do with alienation than it is to do with Islam.”
“What we’re seeing now is a phenomenon that goes way beyond the Muslim community,” he continued. “White middle-class, white working class — people in secular society in general — are feeling a sense of alienation. And the impulse that leads in extreme cases to people going overseas and joining ISIS also leads, in less obvious cases, people to use drugs, to drink, to consume, to [soccer] violence.”
“The fuel for this phenomenon — apathy, alienation, isolation — is felt by a lot more people,” Brand said.
Joining ISIS “is merely a more extreme example of something that is commonly understood,” he said, citing studies indicating that England is the loneliest and most depressed country in the European Union.
Watch the entire episode of The Trews below via YouTube.