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Not Mosques, but Friends & Family to Blame for ISIL Radicalization - Expert

The vast majority of people who join jihadist groups like ISIL are recruited by family and friends, while radicalization hardly ever occurs in mosques, a leading Oxford University academic has told the UN, in a stinging critique of western understanding of the group.

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In an address to a UN-hosted panel in New York, leading Oxford University academic Scott Antran said that according to research, three quarters of people who join ISIL were encouraged to do so by friends and peers.

On top of that, family members were responsible for recruiting a further 20 percent of people to ISIL, with Mr Antran's research revealing a serious misunderstanding from governments about the group's recruitment powers.

ISIL Using 'Revolutionary Pull'

Following the Paris attacks a fortnight ago, there have been renewed calls for Islamic communities to do more to discourage extremism and radicalization in structured settings.

However, according to Mr Antran, "radicalization rarely occurs in mosques" and even less so through strangers or anonymous people.

According to Mr Antran, jihadist group ISIL offers the same kind of "revolutionary pull" that occurred times of dynamic social instability, such as the rise of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

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He said many western governments have underestimated the recruitment powers of jihadist groups, pointing out that they appear to be far more appealing to young people and can attract supporters "much better than the governments that are fighting against it."

West Needs to Change Tack

Far from being a problem isolated to the Islamic community in the West, research has found that a significant number of ISIL recruits come from Christian or non-religious families, with Antran pointing out that "it is the call to glory and adventure that moves these young people to join the Islamic State," with jihad offering them a way to become "heroes."

He said the West's depiction of the group as evil and brutal doesn't seem to be working, based on his experience interviewing captured ISIL and Jabhat al-Nusra fighters.  Antran said:

"The Islamic State represents the spearhead of the most dynamic counter-cultural revolutionary movement since World War II with the largest volunteer fighting force since World War II."

Antran warned that unless the West learned how to "figure out how to have ideas from youth bubble up and be used to attract other youth, I think we'll be lost for the coming generations."

It's estimated that there are between 20,000 and 30,000 foreigners fighting alongside ISIL in Syria and Iraq, with estimates suggesting 5,000-7,000 have come from Europe.

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