The blog is a center piece on topical issues that affect children and young people in Nigeria, Africa and the world. It will stand in the gap as voice to the voiceless and catalyses youths to take its place and drive change in local communities that would shape the world.
Wednesday, 1 February 2017
Religion is not a Legitimate Target for Countering Violent Extremism
Among his first
acts, our new President is taking steps to limit refugees from
predominantly Muslim, conflict-torn countries. He has also instructed his
government to start referring to violent extremism as radical Islam. If
his actions are meant to protect the homeland, they will have the exact
opposite effect. Such policies are shortsighted and miss the real
dynamics underpinning violent extremism.
repeating that terrorists are less likely to harm an American living on
American soil than lightning or a drunk driver. But presuming that
argument doesn’t fly for many Americans who genuinely fear “radical
Islam”, let’s add that most homegrown violent extremists are not Muslim.
They are part of the far right and they target Muslims—and other people
they don’t consider to be like themselves—gay, African American, Latino,
immigrants and so on.
That said, ISIS
is indeed busy 24/7, trying to recruit and equip Americans to attack
inside the homeland. Plenty of evidence shows that militant jihadi terrorist recruitment occurs over the
Internet. ISIS puts out a blanket of slick propaganda videos and makes
powerful promises of justice and prosperity, promising a utopian
“Caliphate”. Some disgruntled, mixed up and mentally unhealthy Americans
have fallen for it and when they retweet, “like” or endorse this promise
of utopia, ISIS recruiters swoop in via the Internet. A lonely teenage
Christian Sunday school teacher living in a rural area on the West coast
was among the radicalized, as was a mixed up Catholic named Shannon
Conley, to whom offered romance and purpose. Both young women converted
and started moving toward ISIS until their parents and grandparents found
out and put a stop to it. These were not refugees; they were the nice
girls next door.
converts and Muslims already living in the United States are the targets
of ISIS’ Internet seduction in the U.S. Refugees have, for the most part,
not responded to ISIS seduction recruitment inside the U.S. Or if they
have it’s due to a multitude of problems unrelated to their religion.
Examples quoted often include Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber, whose
parents divorced and moved back to the Russian Republic of Dagestan,
leaving him here with his younger siblings. Tamerlan failed in his
education, failed as a boxer, and got caught up in criminal enterprise
and seduced into terrorism well after entering the country on asylum—not
as a refugee. Or the black Somali Americans who came as young kids but
failed to integrate and fell prey to calls to come return to Somalia to
join al Shabaab and defend Somali women from claims of rape by invading
ISIS is a user
and will use anybody. But refugees who have fled their country have done
so to escape from ISIS, other terrorists and their oppressive
governments. They are fleeing, not to attack anyone, but to not be
vetting procedures and our internal national security works. There has
never been a terrorist attack by a refugee seeking entry to our country.
Only once have we let in Iraqis who were plotting to attack here, and
they were caught in short order and prosecuted. There are also far
simpler ways for a terrorist determined to attack Americans to enter the
country than to pretend to be a refugee or asylum seeker—visa waiver from
Europe for instance.
Europe, anger festers where second and third generations have found
themselves doomed to poverty in Muslim ghettos. It is there where
terrorist groups have been able to gain a foothold. The same is not true
here. Muslim immigrants in the U.S. have for the most part done extremely
well integrating and succeeding in their lives—better here than in parts
of Europe—capturing and making the American dream into their own personal
parachute from war torn Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to name a
few. America is still a land of opportunities and our people are still
kind and welcoming. And let’s remember, we are a country of immigrants.
Europe does not come from the same tradition.
world over these days find themselves caught between two narratives—one
about the greatness of America and the American dream—but they also see
drones killing women and children. They watch the invasion and occupation
of oil rich countries and they fall prey to rumors that America props up
dictators and tyrants in Muslim populated lands to grab the spoils. ISIS
and al-Qaeda eagerly fan the flames of such beliefs and recent remarks by
President Trump about taking oil doesn’t just violate international law,
it fans these flames of hate and endangers our troops overseas.
hijack the few verses in Christian or Islamic scriptures that they
believe allow them to attack innocent civilians. It’s not the scriptures
that are the problem—it’s the terrorists who hijack and twist and hate
enough to convert religious beliefs into acts of violence. Those are who
we need to oppose—not anyone’s religion.
But I fear we
have a new President who is playing directly into ISIS’s game book—dividing
our country along lines of religion and reinforcing prejudices. We must
not allow U.S. policy to become an asset to ISIS and al-Qaeda.
Of course we all
fear radicalization, including and perhaps especially Muslims who’ve
suffered the most under terrorism. But here, America remains a land of
opportunity where immigrants, the foundation of our nation, continue to
do well. Like the video editor and his parents who fled Assad’s
atrocities and now live near me—trying hard to work, integrate and build
a new life. The mother is a psychologist and regularly gets on Skype to
counsel others still in Syria who are not so lucky to escape. The son who
fits perfectly the profile of Syrians we seem to fear most—young,
unmarried male, of fighting age—is so grateful to be in the United States
and they are a threat to no one. On the contrary, they are already
model citizens, maybe giving back more to their new homeland than most of
us ever do.
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Adjunct Associate Professor
of Psychiatry at Georgetown University in the School of Medicine
of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and a nonresident Fellow of
Trends. She is also the author of Talking
to Terrorists and Bride of ISIS and coauthor
Her newly released book, coauthored with Dr Ahmet S. Yayla, is ISIS
Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate based
on 32 interviews with actual ISIS defectors. Dr. Speckhard has
interviewed nearly five hundred terrorists, their family members and
supporters in various parts of the world including Gaza, the West Bank,
Chechnya, Turkey Iraq, Jordan and many countries in Europe. She was
responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge
aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be
applied to twenty thousand detainees and eight hundred
juveniles. She has consulted to the U.S. Senate, House, NATO,
OSCE, foreign governments and to the U.S. Departments of State,
Defense, Justice Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA
and FBI and is also a sought after
counter-terrorism expert appearing on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC,
CTV, and in Time, The New York Times,The Washington Post, London Times
and in many other publications. ICSVE website: www.ICSVE.org