Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Political Science


David Goetze


The so called ‘Islamic State,’ an Islamic extremist organization which currently controls large swaths of territory in the Middle East, has attracted foreign fighters to its insurgency in tens of thousands. Until just recently, foreign fighters were not well researched or understood separately from local fighters. David Malet (2013) argues that insurgencies recruit foreign fighters by persuading them to defend a ‘common group’ against a threatening enemy. This ‘defensive mobilization,’ he believed, was critical to recruiting foreign fighters throughout history. After preliminary analysis, the Islamic State presented evidence contrary to this theory, and it seemed dubious that they would use defensive mobilization to recruit foreign fighters.

By analyzing at Islamic State’s recruitment propaganda, this research found that the Islamic State did indeed break with Malet’s understanding of foreign fighters. Interestingly, the Islamic State instead invoked the religious duty to conquer on behalf of a legitimate religious state and restore Islamic dominion over the world. These findings may serve to increase our understanding of the Islamic State in general and will likely cause us to make adjustments in how we understand foreign fighter recruitment to other civil conflicts.