The sad death of Kayla Mueller at the hands of the so-called Islamic State brings the death toll of IS hostages to an alarming level. I am aware that IS are claiming that she died in a Jordanian air strike, but we will never know the truth, and IS have proven time and again that they have little respect for human life unless it conforms to their narrow view of the world.
And it is this narrow view, or ideology, which means that fighting them is extremely difficult. Like their fellow fundamentalists in the Taliban and Al Qaeda, where we kill one, two more will spring up in their place. These ruthless terrorists recruit angry young men and women from all over the world, tapping into their sense of alienation and perceived lack of opportunity. It was not surprising that the two terrorists who opened fire at Charlie Hebdo were of Algerian descent. France has a long history of conflict in Algeria and this has led to a generation of disaffected Algerian youth in France and elsewhere. These two radicalised brothers would have had no qualms about executing fellow French citizens.
Despite knowing all this, countries in both east and west keep bombing IS targets. This places civilians in the line of fire, most of them moderate Muslims simply trying to live their lives in an impossible and dangerous situation. Children all over the middle east live in constant fear of drone strikes and yet, if their families try to escape them, they become refugees and enter another kind of hell in refugee camps. And none of this carnage stops IS even for a second.
In my opinion, the only way to fight this onslaught of radicalisation and cold-blooded murder is to tackle the ideology which leads to it, and that is no easy task. The human brain is deeply suggestible, and poisonous ideologies take root very easily. If they are then nurtured by clever people who know how to manipulate us, they grow bigger and can lead ordinary human beings to do the most extraordinary things. Cast your mind back to the Nazi death machine of the Second World War and you can see how dangerous and difficult to combat this can be. Once one human being begins to view other human beings as less than human or dangerous, then it’s only a small step from there to mass murder.
Education is the key; and we must start to use the internet to combat the radicalisation of our young people. IS and their affiliates are extremely adept at using the web (aptly named in this case) to draw in and capture young minds. Using the web is clever. It allows them to access their targets privately, in the seclusion of their own homes, even their bedrooms. It’s very difficult for the security services to track it quickly enough to put a stop to it.
Instead of pouring money into defence and drone strikes, the government needs to give the security services money for software, staff and training in the use of the internet, and social media in particular, so we can catch these young people before their whole world is consumed by hate and fundamentalism and they are lost to us.