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Psychology Not Theology: Overcoming ISIS' Secret Appeal


Despite the intensifying military response to ISIS by the US and its allies, the realization is growing that “we cannot kill our way out of this mess,” to cite governor Romney’s famous quip, and that, as DHS chief Jeh Johnson recently stated, “our government should not overreact, or react out of fear, anger or prejudice.” Johnson pleaded instead for a moderate counter-narrative by Muslim clerics to sway potential recruits to extremism away from violence and back to the path of real Islam. In the same vein, Barack Obama and David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, declared ISIS activities un-Islamic, and over a hundred Muslims clerics have signed a letter to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, with detailed scholastic arguments why ISIS’ conduct is all “wrong” and an “offense to Islam, to Muslims and to the entire world.” But the real question is whether the battle for the hearts and minds of starry-eyed enthusiasts for ISIS can be won on theological grounds alone, and whether it is the fervent quest for religious Truth that propels them to risk life and limb by flocking to the fight. On reflection, that is to be doubted. Rather, ISIS’ recruitment strategy may work through its psychology, not its theology.

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Full Citation:

Kruglanski, Arie W. 2014. "Psychology Not Theology: Overcoming ISIS' Secret Appeal." October 28. http://www.e-ir.info/2014/10/28/psychology-not-theology-overcoming-isis-secret-appeal/.

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