Why Are Dozens Of Western Women Joining ISIS?

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The FBI is investigating the case of three teenage girls from Colorado who they believe tried to join ISIS militants in Syria.

Agents stopped the girls, who are 15, 16 and 17, at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany over the weekend, after their parents reported them, and some cash, missing. A U.S. official said they were headed to Syria, by way of Turkey.

This comes a month after a 19-year-old woman from Colorado was arrested and pleaded guilty to conspiring to help ISIS. And they are not the only ones.

Here & Now's Robin Young talks to Katherine Brown, a professor in the Defence Studies Department at King's College London, about why American and European women are joining Islamic militants.

Interview Highlights: Katherine Brown

On why Western women are joining ISIS

“I think what is really interesting here is there is a naïve romanticism that we see, but it’s not just about being wooed to marry Islamic fighters in Iraq and Syria. It’s also about romanticism about being a part of a new political state. This idea of being part of a new community and being taken seriously because what we’re seeing is that ISIS takes young people seriously. They take their politics seriously, they give them a voice, they give them credit, and that has a certain amount of appeal in a society, at least in Europe, where young people are not given the credibility that they might otherwise want.”

On the message that ISIS is pushing towards women

“I would say that the messages that ISIS is putting forward are not mainstream Islamic message at all. They’re not ones that you would find in the mosque. They’re not ones that you find ordinarily spoken. They’re definitely radical interpretations, but that also is appealing because it holds a degree of simplicity because it’s able to paint the world in black and white, and that makes it very easy to understand and believe in. Actually, like with all religions, it’s very complex. Islam like Christianity has a complex tradition of thinking, very different practices, ways of being Muslim, and ways of practicing Islam. I think what fundamentalism does is that it provides this simple black and white model that people find appealing.”


  • Katherine Brown, a professor in the Defence Studies Department at King's College London.

This segment aired on October 24, 2014.


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