Islamic State recruitment and mobilization in the United States is reaching “unprecedented” and “historic” levels, according to experts on violent extremism. It’s still not as big a problem here as it is in Europe, but ISIS is now reaching Americans at a faster pace than than al-Qaida ever did.
As of October, law enforcement authorities knew of 250 Americans who had traveled or tried to travel to Syria or Iraq to join ISIS fighters. And there are about 900 active investigations against ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states.
These alarming statistics were unveiled today by analysts at the George Washington University Program on Extremism. The center spent the past six months monitoring ISIS supporters on social media and researching FBI court files. They found that Americans who join ISIS—or those who flirt with the idea—come from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. People arrested this year in connection to the terrorist group include an African-American woman from Mississippi State University and a white man from suburban Cincinnati who recently converted to Islam.
Most of them were “groomed” by ISIS supporters through social-media networks such as Twitter and Instagram, according to the report. And many embraced the group's radical interpretation of Islam as a way to find belonging and a sense of personal identity.