According to research, 95 percent of foreign ISIS fighters are recruited by friends and family and are hardly ever radicalized in mosques.
This comes from Oxford University terrorism expert Scott Atran, at a meeting on 'Foreign Terrorist Fighters' organized by the UN Security Council.
He also added that ISIS fighters from Christian families are the "fiercest fighters of all the fighters we find", The Daily Mail reports.
Reasons for this are many, with Atran citing as a key factor ISIS' ability to effectively appeal to both the dreams and lack of opportunity that youth face.
In an article for Psychology Today, Atran explains what drives kids to join ISIS “is not so much the Qur’an or religious teachings. It’s a thrilling cause that promises glory and esteem. Jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer: fraternal, fast-breaking, glorious, cool—and persuasive.”
Indeed, a July 2014 ICM poll illustrates this fact well: although only 7-8% of France is Muslim, more than one in four French youth between the ages of 18 and 24 viewed ISIS favorably.
What makes them particularly easy to radicalize in Europe is the fact that, as Atran told Nature, “unlike the United States, where immigrants achieve average socioeconomic status and education within a generation, in Europe even after three generations, depending on the country, they’re 5–19 times more likely to be poor or less educated.”
Attitudes towards immigrants also play a factor, Atran notes. Conversing with a young Parisian woman, she confided to Atran that because she doesn't feel French and is often treated wth suspicion, she feels drawn to the idea of a Caliphate that will create a homeland where Muslims can live in dignity.
Atran says that in order to reduce recruitment, the West must begin to focus on targeting capturing the imaginations of these disillusioned youth in the same way ISIS has.
He advises the West to "offer youth something that makes them dream, of a life of significance through struggle and sacrifice in comradeship."