ISIS: The bridge between petty crime and mass murder

In the current debate about the effectiveness of military action against ISIS, one of the most commonly made assertions is that this is an ideological war — it requires victory on the battleground of ideas.

This view is not without merits and yet particularly when it comes to Western ISIS recruits, the stories we most often encounter depict individuals who, although they might be susceptible to brainwashing, have never been intellectually engaged. How do you win a debate with someone who has neither an interest nor an aptitude for engaging in debate?

The powers of persuasion at play here, seem to have much less to do with ideas than with identities and personal empowerment.

This is about a transformation in which someone goes from an aimless life in which they feel lost, to a purposeful life in which they have a sense of mission and their individual actions are consequential.

For those whose sense of alienation is rooted in their perception of the culture and state in which they were raised, it’s hard to imagine that they can be won back by those very institutions by which they felt they had already been discarded.

The Wall Street Journal reports: Two suspects in the Paris attacks sold the bar they owned in Brussels six weeks before the onslaught, according to public records seen by The Wall Street Journal, and it was shut down shortly after the sale over suspicion that drugs had been sold and consumed there.

Brahim Abdeslam, who authorities say blew himself up outside a restaurant during the attacks, and his brother Salah Abdeslam — who police suspect rented the car used in the attacks and is now the subject of a manhunt — sold their stakes in the Les Beguines bar on Sept. 30, according to public documents.

The records show the brothers transferred ownership of the bar to a person based in a Belgian town on the French border. The documents didn’t say how much it was sold for.

A neighbor described the place in the predominantly Muslim quarter of Molenbeek as a rough hangout with regular fights and frequent visits by police.

According to an official notice posted Nov. 2 and effective Nov. 5, authorities were shutting it down for five months because of a police report from August about the trafficking of “poisonous, narcotic and psychotropic substances” on the premises.

Molenbeek’s mayor, Françoise Schepmans, previously told The Wall Street Journal that two of the brothers were known to authorities, largely for drug violations.

The history of the two fits a pattern in which many Islamist terrorists in Europe have been radicalized from the ranks of petty criminals and drug users. [Continue reading…]

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