The recent news that the ISIS terror group has among its ranks Americans and citizens from other western nations forces two questions to be asked: What would make an individual join a terrorist group and what do these groups look for in a recruit? While I believe that the answers vary, the main twelve reasons, in my view, are the following that a terrorist group would look for:

  1. A person who has a sense of emptiness, who is going through a challenging time and has a yearning to find meaning in his or her life.
  2. A person, who lives in poverty, comes from a broken, dysfunctional or absentee family.
  3. A person who suffers from mental illness, a personality disorder or other emotional or psychological problems.
  4. A person who feels that life handed them a raw deal or a bad hand to play. That an injustice was done to him or her.
  5. A person who yearns to belong to a cause and purpose greater than him or herself.
  6. A person who want to be a part of something along with his or her fellows.
  7. A person whose appeal is to racial, ideological, ethnic or religious pride.
  8. A person who is looking for a substitute for a family.
  9. A person who wants to be recognized and craves recognition.
  10. A person who wants notoriety in the eyes of society and among his or her peers and fellows.
  11. A person who craves adventure and a belief in a David vs. Goliath struggle.
  12. A person who desires monetary gain and other things that are a standard of value.

Fighting terrorism militarily, theologically and psychologically is an important task for the U.S. and the western world. There is no denying this reality. However, western nations have to deal also with the root causes of it all as well. This requires not only government and law enforcement, but community, family, religious institutions, entertainment, educational institutions, mental health care professionals and more. While this would not stop terrorism, it would deter future actions tremendously. I believe the time is now for action.