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A new sisterhood: the allure of ISIS in Syria for young Muslim women in the UK

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This thesis examines why young Western Muslim women from the UK are drawn to join and support ISIS in its established territories in Syria and Iraq and identifies their role

This thesis examines why young Western Muslim women from the UK are drawn to join and support ISIS in its established territories in Syria and Iraq and identifies their role within these territories. The critical role of technology, specifically social media, in facilitating the recruitment, radicalization, and mobilization of young Muslim women online to join ISIS is also explored. Females emigrating from the UK appear equally drawn to ISIS's ideology and state-building mission as Muslim men. Claims from the media suggest women serve as 'fighters,' however this research finds that women are not permitted by ISIS to participate in fighting. Using Britain as a case study, this study analyzes the social media content of eight young British Muslim women, known as female migrants, for themes motivating them to mobilize. Themes, culled from the literature, include Muslim attitudes and perceptions in the UK regarding Islamophobia or religious discrimination, the erosion of multiculturalism, identity and belonging, and finding purpose in the ummah, and measures whether these variables influence women to mobilize. Excerpts from blog posts and original tweets from their Tumblr, Twitter, and ask.fm accounts provide the actual voices of British female migrants choosing to live within ISIS territory and offers insight on their role as female migrants. Research suggests that, for British Muslim women in the UK, Muslim identity and belonging, both individually and within the ummah, along with attitudes and perceptions of religious discrimination (Islamophobia) and the failing of multiculturalism are influencing them to join ISIS. Additional motives for migration found within the study are based on the following beliefs: that the ummah is under attack, a strong desire to help build a new society, their religious duty as a Muslim, and the opportunity to belong and find purpose in the new "caliphate sisterhood." The role of female migrants residing in ISIS territory is domestic in nature, where they primarily function as wives and mothers of jihadists, as well as serve in online roles as propagandists, proselytizers, and recruiters for ISIS. The strong online presence of women demands an effective counter narrative to deter prospective female migrants from emigrating.

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  • 2015