The Islamic State isn't exactly choosy about who gets to enter its ranks, based on an examination by the AP of thousands of leaked ISIS documents that show recruits often had very little, if any, religious knowledge to back up their desire to join—with a couple of British newbies even buying The Koran for Dummies and Islam for Dummies on Amazon right before heading overseas to fight for their "cause." The AP says its probe—which included interviews, court testimony, and scrutiny of more than 4,000 entry forms of foreigners heading to Syria in 2013 and 2014 to join up with ISIS—showed those terror candidates were "overwhelmingly ignorant" of Islam and had to be schooled via indoctrination videos and visiting imams specifically commissioned to bring them up to speed.
About 70% of the recruits had "basic" knowledge of Sharia law (i.e., not much at all), while 24% claimed "intermediate" knowledge and 5% "advanced" status. And per a study by West Point's Combating Terrorism Center, those who wanted to carry out suicide bombings tended not to be religious scholars—the naifs volunteered more often. Some recruits tell the AP they were thrown by their ISIS experience once they got there: One now-regretful European recruit tells the AP, "I realized that I was in the wrong place when they began to ask me questions on these forms like 'When you die, who should we call?'" What all of this means, per a former CIA case officer and Mideast extremist expert: that although some recruits do indeed join up with ISIS for religious reasons, most, including those from the West, are drawn instead by "a sense of belonging, a sense of notoriety, a sense of excitement. … Religion is an afterthought." (A glimpse into an ISIS job application.)