Friday's NBC Nightly News surprisingly (and perhaps, unwittingly) contradicted President Obama and his administration's talking point on combating extremism – that providing "job opportunities for these people" will discourage Muslims from joining terrorist groups. Correspondent Katy Tur's report on three British teenagers who may have traveled to Syria to join ISIS featured a counterterrorism expert who underlined that "they're not the disaffected. They're not necessarily unemployed youth. Instead, we're seeing educated young women who are engaged in politics." [video below]
The same talking head – Dr. Katherine Brown of King's College in London – also provided a potential motivation for the three women, along with scores of other young adult Muslims who have abandoned their lives in Western countries and joined ISIS: "I think the idea that you can give your life meaning by performing jihad, and that's very exciting."
Graeme Wood of The Atlantic recently made a similar point to Dr. Brown's in his extensive examination of ISIS:
Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many have come to fight, and many intend to die....Online recruitment has also widened the demographics of the jihadist community, by allowing conservative Muslim women—physically isolated in their homes—to reach out to recruiters, radicalize, and arrange passage to Syria. Through its appeals to both genders, the Islamic State hopes to build a complete society....The foreign fighters (and their wives and children) have been traveling to the caliphate on one-way tickets: they want to live under true Sharia, and many want martyrdom.
Online recruitment is an apparent factor in the teenagers' disappareance, as Tur reported during the segment:
KATY TUR: Shamima Begum, 15; Kadiza Sultana, 16; and another 15-year-old whose parents asked not to be named....were known as normal teenagers – good students. But on Begum's Twitter account Sunday, a message to a female ISIS member – a known recruiter – asking for a private conversation.
The full transcript of Katy Tur's report from Friday's NBC Nightly News:
LESTER HOLT: There is an urgent global appeal tonight from authorities in the U.K. They're sounding the alarm about three teenaged schoolgirls who vanished from their families without warning – only to turn up on camera together at the airport. And there are worries they have been lured to join ISIS, as hundreds of young women across Europe have done.
We get late details tonight from NBC's Katy Tur in London.
KATY TUR (voice-over): The three girls walked through security at London's Gatwick airport showing no hint of their intentions. They flew to Istanbul – bound for Syria, officials fear, to join ISIS. Shamima Begum, 15; Kadiza Sultana, 16; and another 15-year-old whose parents asked not to be named, raised alarm bells when they didn't come home Tuesday night.
COMMANDER RICHARD WALTON, METROPOLITAN POLICE COUNTERTERRORISM UNIT: These three families had no idea of the intentions of their daughters – no idea whatsoever they were going to be traveling to Turkey, and that they intended to go to Syria.
TUR: They were known as normal teenagers – good students. But on Begum's Twitter account Sunday, a message to a female ISIS member – a known recruiter – asking for a private conversation.
TUR (on-camera): All of that triggered Scotland Yard's unprecedented alert, and it comes amid growing concerns that more and more young people are being enticed by ISIS – including, we just learned, another 15-year-old girl from the same school, who ran off in December.
KATHERINE BROWN, KING'S COLLEGE LONDON COUNTERTERRORISM EXPERT: They're not the disaffected. They're not necessarily unemployed youth. Instead, we're seeing educated young women who are engaged in politics.
TUR (voice-over): And ISIS makes them think it offers something worth fighting for.
BROWN: I think the idea that you can give your life meaning by performing jihad, and that's very exciting.
TUR: Experts say, perhaps, more than 300 women from across Europe have joined ISIS – many of them from the U.K.
As for the latest three, loved ones hope this harsh Istanbul winter has delayed their journey, and kept them out of ISIS hands. Katy Tur, NBC News, London.