The typical Westerner who joins ISIS is not a religious zealot who has turned to crime, but a petty criminal who has turned to superficial religion. A leaked MI5 report on the profile of British jihadists noted that, “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practice their faith regularly.”3 Why would someone who is not serious about his religion want to kill for it, let alone die for it? The answer is that ISIS terrorists are not killing and dying for religion but for themselves. ISIS offers malcontents the chance to channel their pathologies into a cause that appears unselfish and constructive, just as it appears to offer confused girls an escape from the perplexities of modern life. As Hannan explains, when discussing males who join ISIS,
. . . one observation made by almost all the experts who have studied Western-born Islamic militants is that they fit the classic profile of the terrorist down the ages: male, typically in their twenties or early thirties, with some education, narcissistic, lacking in empathy, lonely, unsuccessful with women, often with a history of petty crime.
What makes a terrorist different from other bellicose young men is that he has found a cause that validates his anti-social tendencies—a doctrine that teaches him that he is angry, not because there’s something wrong with him, but because there’s something wrong with everyone else.4