Why is ISIS able to recruit Saudi youth?

On Wednesday, the Muslim world celebrated its new year amidst fears and concerns of the growing threat of ISIS and the spread of an extremist militant ideology that has destroyed peace and harmony in many parts of the Muslim world. ISIS and other terrorist organizations which kill and commit barbaric acts against innocent Muslims and non-Muslims alike continue to be the worst enemies of Islam.

Reports of ISIS terrorist activities dominate the Western press and our local press has daily coverage of alarming stories of young ISIS recruits who turn against their own families: a son who kills his father, two young members of a family who shoot their cousin, all because they do not share the same terrorist views. There are also many stories of parents who discover too late that their sons have been recruited by terrorists in Syria or Iraq. It is evident that terrorist groups are determined to target our youth and use them to further their own political agendas. Sadly they have been very active while many of our imams and parents have failed to recognize the extent of their threat.

The nationwide campaign to combat extremism and foster tolerance and moderation should involve all government agencies and engage civic institutions

Samar Fatany

Meanwhile, the national campaign to fight deviant ideology has not been effective. It is critical at this stage to mobilize a stronger united front of progressive reformers to combat extremists who are a threat to our security and social stability. The public should be more alert and should confront those imams with extremist views who promoted a toxic mentality. Extremists and ISIS sympathizers among us need to be confronted by those with a stronger sense of patriotism and better citizenship.


Nurturing and guiding the young is the national and religious responsibility of all members of society. Many of the young have become disillusioned by the failure of both reformers and hardliners and hence have adopted an extremely negative attitude with regard to their country’s values and traditions. The limited opportunities to participate in cultural, economic and political life have created a dangerous situation with the potential for violent behavior from frustrated youth who have no hope for a better future. This state of affairs may lead to social turmoil and political unrest.

The nationwide campaign to combat extremism and foster tolerance and moderation should involve all government agencies and engage civic institutions. Community leaders must speak out against social ills that have led to extremism and have created a hostile environment.

The prevalent conventional policy of authoritarian constraint does not permit the implementation of flexible programs to ensure basic rights for all citizens. Rather it allows the influence of negative and unprogressive attitudes to exist depriving many of the freedom to express themselves and to reject hardline views.

A determination to combat extremists

The social attitude of many who are convinced that there is no urgency for domestic reform is the main obstacle to a more prosperous society. There are others who are persuaded that we need to develop slowly to allow society more time to accept modernity and adopt more progressive attitudes. However, this policy will only add more hurdles, and the continued delay will compound our challenges keeping us lagging behind the accelerating global progress.

The old school of a centralized system must be upgraded with management that delegates work to qualified personnel, young men and women, who can get the work done without delay. Discrimination and the lack of incentives are behind the poor performance in many government departments. It is time we catch up with global progress with more support for an active civil society that can complement government policies, push the implementation of reforms and promote the skills of citizenship essential for a more tolerant and progressive environment.

Let us celebrate this new year with renewed determination to combat extremists who are a threat to our security and social stability. Let us take time to reflect upon our achievements and create better prospects for our youth with innovative reforms to meet the challenges of the modern world.


This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Oct. 3, 2015.

Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”


Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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