Experts tell U.N. council: Feeling left out drives youth to Islamic State

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 23, 2015 2:38 PM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Most European youth who travel to Iraq and Syria to fight with Islamic State militants do so because they do not feel at home in Europe, academics told a United Nations Security Council meeting chaired Thursday by Jordan's 20-year-old crown prince.

Crown Prince Al Hussein Bin Abdullah II is the youngest person to chair the 15-member Security Council, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The council met to discuss the role of youth in countering violent extremism.

Peter Neumann, a professor at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence at King's College London, said that his center had tracked 700 young Europeans fighting with Islamic State on social media and had spoken to nearly 100 of them to find out their stories.

"We are dealing with an incredibly diverse group," Neumann told the Security Council.

"What many, if not most of them, had in common is that they didn't feel they had a stake in their societies. They often felt that ... they weren't European, they didn't belong, that they'd never succeed however hard they tried."

He said this had opened their minds to an ideology that "you can't be European and Muslim at the same time."

Anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Michigan and the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, said that countries needed to focus on the "inherent energy and idealism" of their youth.

"Without recognizing these passions, we risk fanning them," Atran said.

Jordan's Crown Prince Abdullah appealed to the council to "partner with young people ... instead of leaving them as a target of violence and destruction."

"We have to fill this vacuum being exploited by enemies of humanity by building on the potential of youth and empowering them to achieve their ambitions," he said. "This can be achieved by making young people immune and equipped with quality education, proper job opportunities and a decent living."

He announced that Jordan would host the first international conference on "The Role of Youth in Making Sustainable Peace" in August in partnership with the United Nations.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Grant McCool)