Recruitment akin to cult-like following, says expert

The Star, Malaysia/January 9, 2015

Petaling Jaya -- The penchant that some Malaysians have for the Islamic State (IS) terror group is psychological, similar to the reason why some people are attracted to cults, said criminologist Dr Geshina Ayu Mat Saat.

Cult membership was not about monetary gain but about propagating the group’s statements and achieving its goals, said the Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer who has researched the topic.

“Cult related behaviour has been studied from as far back as the 1860s and cult membership appears to be influenced by charismatic leaders, issues that are a uniting factor and the apparent freedom of choice,” she said in an interview yesterday.

The evidence suggested that there was some gullibility at the onset of the membership but this later strengthened into passive compliance due to the forming of personal relationships within the cult, she said.

Dr Geshina said that the affiliation with IS may be attractive to some individuals who were dissatisfied or disenchanted with the way things were in their lives.

“These individuals join the terror group and attempt to bring on change by the use of force and aggression.

“The common link among such militants is the willingness to use violence while justifying its use strengthens the group and provides a sense of elitism to its members.

“This also gives the group and its members power over others,” she said.

According to Dr Geshina, IS recruiters used subtle methods to attract members.

“Incidences of the blind acceptance of misinterpreted religious texts is high,” she said.

“Also, parts of religious text are used incorrectly to justify its non-conforming behaviour, which lays the foundation for further deviance.”

Dr Geshina said it was important for individuals to learn the Al-Quran and sunnah by attending religious classes at registered schools.

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