The terrorist attack that took place in Norway on Wednesday, October 13 renewed European fears that the recruitment networks of ISIS would exploit the modernists of Islam and convince them of extremist ideas and then push them to European capitals to carry out terrorist attacks as lone wolves. According to police, the perpetrator of the attack, which occurred in the town of Kongsberg, southwest of the capital Oslo, had converted to Islam some time ago, and there were fears that he had become an extremist.
Not all of the new Muslims in Norway are restricted to Islamic centers or major mosques and associations concerned with their affairs. Therefore, a large number of them are not taken into consideration, whether in terms of numbers in the media or in terms of presenting the true religion to them and protecting them from polarization.
In general, extremist groups target new converts to Islam for several reasons, including seeking fighters with clean records who have not previously joined terrorist groups through social media platforms, which represented the most important electronic recruitment resource.
Regarding the phenomenon of attracting newcomers to Islam to ISIS, Jamal Hajjaj, an imam in a mosque in Europe, said, that those who are new to Islam are more likely to fall under the influence of extremist groups, as they are easy to attract since they still do not understand the religion. He pointed out that some of them suffer from psychological problems and are in a state of confusion, and therefore easy to attract.
Hajjaj added, “When we offer religious lessons to those who convert to Islam, there are people who belong to political Islamist currents outside waiting, and their words affect those who come to receive religious lessons.”
According to the Council of Muslim Scholars, it is estimated that half of ISIS’s elements are new Muslims in the West who have been infiltrated by political Islamism, provoke the extreme right, and are happy with its reaction in order for there to be a clash and conflict of civilizations between Islam and the West. Because they live only in this environment, their project is clash, conflict, terrorist acts and violence everywhere, and reducing Islam to just a political project, while the pure Islam is supposed to be devoid of any political employment and of any misconceptions about Islam.
Among the most prominent names that analyzed the phenomenon of new Muslims’ association with extremism, Mobin Sheikh, a former Muslim extremist and now an expert in combating terrorism, said that ISIS in its early days used to give rewards and bonuses to recruiters if they were able to recruit women, and there were units dedicated to recruiting Western women and using them in propaganda, especially targeting converts to Islam.
Sheikh added that most of these young people did not convert to Islam, but they turned to extremism, so their families should be vigilant and realize what they are converting to and who will receive them at the beginning of their journey, most importantly Salafis, Sunnis or Sufis.
Sheikh also believes that this is not enough, because they have already gone on the path of extremism and terrorism, and most of them are known to the police. He wondered about those who preach in the West and their role in confronting the misconceptions that Al-Azhar warned against, and he repeatedly called for controlling the language of Islamic discourse in the West and making sure that Islam presented to this audience is the true Islam, far from distorted misconceptions or exploiting extremists.