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When we think of indoctrination, we imagine some radicalized psychopath preaching fallacies to our youth. Someone who is so out there, that if you passed them on the street, you would just know they were crazy.
But what if the signs weren’t so obvious and the lines weren’t so clear? What if our kids were starting to become indoctrinated by their neighbors, parents and friends? Is indoctrination essentially just a form of education or are there lines that can’t be crossed?
Recent news gave us a “friendly reminder” of the obvious extremism in our midst. When three-year-old Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj went missing, it led to the discovery of an apparent New Mexico terrorist compound which was grooming children to carry out school shootings. This camp was, at the request and urging of the parents, educating and indoctrinating children with hate and the pillars of radical Islam. These children were being primed for their roles from a young age and trained to carry out crimes of violence and hate. It’s very clear the compound in New Mexico grossly oversteps the boundaries of education. Not only were children being brainwashed, but they were also being taught how to murder.
However, what if these issues are not always so clear cut? Americans pride themselves on open mindedness and liberalism. Our mantra is literally “the land of the free.” We accept new ideas and “outsiders” with open arms and try to create a society where all feel welcome. But is there a point at which we become too open minded?
In 2017, the Department of Education introduced a federally-funded program called Access Islam. This program introduced a curriculum which taught students, grades 5-12, about Islam and Muslim law. While the program was supposedly started to educate and familiarize the masses with Islamic doctrine, many protested that it was in clear violation of the First Amendment as it was preaching religion in school. Parents were not only upset about the concept of teaching religion in the public school system, but also felt as though their children were being proselytized, indoctrinated and radicalized. What perhaps started as a vehicle to educate and inform, turned very quickly into a lawsuit in which one side was claiming First Amendment violations and the other side Islamophobia. The blurred lines have caused us, as a society, to feel vulnerable and scared because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between a history lesson, a religious sermon and radicalization.
So can we really draw a clear line? At what point does multiculturalism and the celebration of different faiths turn into manipulation and propaganda? Clearly there is no easy answer, but as a society we can start by trying to find the balance between accepting others and protecting our youth from extremist values.
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