Film Commentary 08: ISIS – Behind The Mask

The bravado behind the mask is not a person. but rather, an ideology which has a strong influence to the perception of goodness and meaning in life. In the documentary entitle Behind The Mask, it was clearly exhibited how an individual’s ideological space is powerful beyond measure as this brings a strong dictation as to how one should live life. An ideology has one of the greatest capabilities to reengineer society and changes people’s lives as it brings about a “set of rules” in which people submerge themselves in, transforming their overall everyday lifestyle. As people act upon this ideology, their actions become higher forms of manifestations of the ideology’s principles. Particularly, it is religious ideologies that can be identified to manifest such results, given that it has a strong capacity to bring meaning and purpose to an individual’s life. In a Muslim sense, the Islam ideology is said to be very promising as the people abide by the principles of the Islamic Caliphate. With the aid of preachers, a lot of radical individuals are transformed, bringing them into the fold, and acting as one under a particular belief and way of life. This is the life changing climax of Michael Delefortrie, now known as Younnes.

In Delefortrie’s journey out of the Christian faith, and into the Islam religion, his story manifests how a terrorist group has the ability to psychosocially influence people. Hence, bringing a larger and different understanding in being part of them, beyond a group or a collective that merely produces chaos. Delefortrie was once an ordinary kid from Belgium, walking up and down the streets like the everyday person. He had a troubled set of teenage years, even exploring a variety of drugs and alcohol as he simultaneously declined in performing in the academic institution. As a Christian, he found the ordinary life of one, preaching the Lord on Sundays, and acting based on the religion’s morals. As he ventured into the Islamic world, and later training with the ISIS, he found meaning and greater purpose in life, even finding his transformation to be an upgrade in the way of life. Now, as an ISIS convert, Delefortrie finds himself as a holy warrior, battling in favor of the Caliphate, and utilizing violence in order to bring terror against the non-Muslim communities.

In light of these ideas, the forms of social cohesion and conformity to an ideology is evident. As ISIS converts, people like Delefortrie find meaning in their lives as they believe that they are fighting for what is good, being holy warriors that serve to protect their religion. In fact, attacks are even made against non-Muslim communities. In this sense, the ISIS converts of radical youth members have found a positive relationship in each other as they are tied to the common belief system that they must fight for the islam caliphate. This strong bond that is tied and connected by a religious ideology established a strong and positive network amongst ISIS members. The idea of conformity stems out from this occurrence, given that they are now all acting upon the decisions of the terrorist organization. As a terrorist organization, they have provided a clear identity for the ISIS, establishing norms that involve fighting and causing chaos. Hence, instilling this “way of life” amongst its members, transforming it to the new norm for them.

In the documentary, Delefortrie is found to idolize Osama Bin Laden, and is very unapologetic about his honor to the master mind of the 9/11 attacks, in which 2,977 people were killed. More so, Delefortrie sheds light on his conversion as he once fell under the spell of Svengali’s golden tongue. In this event of Delefortrie’s life, and how he entered the ISIS’ fold, there is evidence to, somewhat, debunk the general ideas presented in Zoolander’s theory. In this theory, “the idea that terrorists are brainwashed ostensibly serves as an objective and value-free causal explanation: X became a terrorist because of Y’s bad influence”. In addition,  it is presumed that the person is unconscious of what is happening as he/she is influenced. However, in this case, Delefortrie was very much aware of his fascination with Osama Bin Laden. He had already expressed values and insights of inclining to the terrorist groups ways. In this case, it was not all of Y’s influence that brought Delefortrie into the fold. But, rather, it was a combination of how personal disposition, affected by a certain pressure of influence, made it all possible for X, in this case, Delefortrie, to take a role in the ISIS.

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