It strikes me that there are some similarities between Nazism and Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), both groups of right wing extremists, born out of humiliation and post-war chaos, ambitions for global conquest with twisted religious narratives, youth recruitment, brainwashing, enslavement of women for sexual use, indiscriminate killing with incredible brutality creating societies propped up by fear, totalitarianism and ideological banality. Opportunists who will change their tune in a beat to get more recruits, more power. So of course, they are also just irrational, gone-insane criminals and fear-mongers.
But it is clear the climate was created for their growth. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, (general instability coming out of the Arab Spring) Syria, extradition, torture, Abu Ghraib, detention without trial or representation are so many excuses, vehicles for recruiters to paint a 'war on Islam' that was in fact supposed to be a 'war on terror' (except if you listened to Bush and Blair's narrative of the Axis of Evil, and their misguided overtly 'Christian' politicking effectively creating another 'crusade' using falsified intelligence with no repercussions for them, mistakes still being made by some). So that some young people (for whatever reason not unique in being angry, and feeling humiliated) went looking for identity and belonging, whilst living in a western media-driven often very white right wing society that overtly rejects them for their economic, racial or religious background. At the start of their radicalisation they could be forgiven for feeling they might better belong to a pseudo-religious group who gives them a sense of power, support, direction, and self respect, who embraces them on a non superficial level, providing camaraderie calling them 'brother' or 'sister', albeit a cult who lulls them into a sense of security and grooms them with ever increasing doses of adrenaline fuelled violence until it becomes normal, in their minds, even a rational means to an end. They clam they want an apocalypse, a final stand off with the Christian world where (winning of course) are left to spread Islamic Law, with its polygamy, stoning, slavery, authoritarianism and all. Fortunately that outcome seems unlikely at best and almost as barmy as the idea that murder buys you a place in a harem-like-paradise, God knows. Presumably women don't go to heaven in their world view, its just for men. Realistically though it's rather more earthly motivations that drive people to join ISIL.
Lets be honest, if you've ever felt angry for any reason, you can understand that if someone offers you a way to exercise that frustration, and a constant justifying narrative to fuel that way of thinking and interpret everything in relation to that anger, it becomes a drug, so that down the line you can't back out and the mind set only grows. It isn't an impossible stretch to empathise. It just takes the right combination of psychological propensity, vulnerability, social circumstances and pressures. And crucially these factors are the factors that we can change.
Reading the newspapers reporting on Paris today I noticed (as I often do) how the rest of the paper's contents are actually offensively and distressingly superficial. The ubiquitous media coverage obsessing over celebrities, appearances, products, holidays, all point to an inflated sense of entitlement, as though we have a natural right to a luxury beyond measure whilst simultaneously people are dying in poverty, of thirst and starvation. 'We' only seem to care about nonsense where a passport to existence is cash, the only factor that counts.
What the media still pushes and (inaccurately) presents as 'western culture' is patently grotesque and banal in its own right. It veils the reality of how many (brown) people are killed out of sight by our governments 'machines and robots daily, while we eat cake and watch 'QVC'. If we had spent the money on developing green energy instead of interfering in the middle east for the sake of oil, we might not be in this mess. It is rather like the Victorian upper classes stepping over starving children on their way to church, or Marie Antoinette saying 'let them eat cake' when they can't even afford bread. The developed world lives in a putrid bubble of wealth and ease, numbed into a stupor of ignorance and indifference to other people's lives, in every post colonial country in the world developed countries are still mining their natural resources for their own profit or living off the wealth they generated through slavery in previous generations. Any young person of conscience has to face the fact that there is no social contract, but not every young person has to deal with being racially and or religiously prejudged against every time they go through an airport or train station or job application. Not every young person has relatives that got their legs or head blown off by the government voted in by the society they live in.
The world has certainly gone mad if it was ever sane, and these young people (rightly or wrongly) have decided they don't owe western societies their allegiance. No one cares about them (they think), and so reciprocally they (decide they) will be most effective in claiming media attention by demonstrating that they not only do not care either, but that they will actively enjoy terrorising us, even if that involves dying. Perhaps if violence didn't look so darn exciting all the time in every single film you might happen to watch, they might not think it'd all be so much fun.
With six degrees of separation, maybe just giving-a-shit about people you don't know, sound or look like in your own life, will filter through into the wider world. I love seeing poppy-print hijab or muslim faces on television (British Bake off for eg) representing British society, because that is the way to go, if only we could grow closer still; more integration, more respect, more warmth, more cross culture meeting places - an actual sense of community. Tell some one it is not ok if you hear a racial slur or other lazy-brained attitude. Tell them they are part of the mechanism that enables terrorism.
A more emotionally inclusive identity-secure society would breed fewer monsters - it has to.