Radicalization of kids: a global threat

A new program by human rights activists, concerned about the future of the next generation, is creating awareness about the way children are being abused and radicalized.

By Raheel Raza, The Gatestone Institute

On July 12, a 13-year-old boy blew himself up in a suicide bombing at a wedding in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, killing five people and injuring 40, local officials said.

The issue of child radicalization has become a global horror show.

Radicalization is now easy for the extremists, thanks to technology, the new weapon being brandished by Islamist terrorists in accordance with the mandate of the Muslim Brotherhood to “weaken the West from within.”

Kids today, as early as three years old, are on YouTube watching videos. Unfortunately, it has never been easier for extremists — from white supremacists to radical Islamists — to target vulnerable children and penetrate a child’s consciousness.

According to the U.N., there are more than 250,000 child soldiers fighting around the world in more than 20 different conflicts. The Combating Terrorism Center reports that ISIS had more than 1,500 kids on the front lines and trained 1,000 kids to become suicide bombers in the first six months of 2015.

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This problem has spilled over into North America. CNN reported last year that about 1,000 investigations of connections with ISIS were open in all 50 states.

– In August 2018, 11 children were found in a compound in New Mexico being trained by an American radical Islamist to commit school shootings

– In Minneapolis, 45 boys and young men have left the local Somali community to join al-Shabab or ISIS. Dozens more were stopped in 2018 from traveling.

– In June 2019, a 22-year-old Bangladeshi living in New York was arrested for plotting an attack on Times Square.

These are only a part of the statistics that tell us we are facing a huge crisis; very few people are willing to speak about the dangers of the radicalization of youths.

On July 18, leaders and experts with the Clarion Project gathered in Washington, D.C. to hold an exclusive pre-release Congressional screening of the new documentary, “Kids Chasing Paradise” (currently in post-production). The organization flew in key experts and other leaders fighting against radical extremism and who are affiliated with the film to educate Congress, hold media briefings and present its program, Prevent Violent Extremism, at the National Press Club.

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Kids Chasing Paradise tells the incredible story of ordinary people who have been directly affected by this radicalization and are now trying to prevent it from happening to others.

Apart from some in-depth coverage of youths being taught hate, violence and radicalization, the film features:

– Christianne Boudreau, a Canadian mother who was personally affected by the impact of the violent radicalization process; her son, Damian, was killed while fighting for ISIS. She now coordinates the Mothers for Life Network, which brings together mothers of radicalized jihadis to support one another and combat radicalization.

– Tania Joya, a former extremist who is now working out of Texas on deradicalization. Tania Joya’s ex-husband was radicalized in Texas as a teenager and became ISIS’ main propagandist in Syria. Originally British, Tania Joya and her four children now live in Texas. Tania used to want her children to grow up to be jihadists. Now she embraces human rights and Western values.

– Nicola Benyahia is a British woman who founded Families for Life, a nonprofit organization focused on deradicalization and support for families of young extremists. When Nicola’s son, Rasheed, unexpectedly joined ISIS, she found Christianne and they started both a professional collaboration and personal friendship

The movie is accompanied by a workshop called “Preventing Violent Extremism,” based on the concept that no one is born a terrorist or extremist. Individuals are manipulated into being radicalized. Therefore, we feel that prevention is possible. The workshop is a way of understanding the path to youth radicalization and suggestions on how to prevent it before it happens.

As people who care deeply about human rights, we are extremely concerned about the way these children are being subverted and abused, as well as about the future of our next generation, and creating awareness is of utmost importance.

Raheel Raza is resident of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow and co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement. She is a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Gatestone Institute.