Not only hoodlums, outcasts, or high school dropouts become indoctrinated into extreme organizations. According to psychologists, “Radicalization is a psychological trajectory that, given the right circumstances, can happen to any person, group or nation.”
So, how does a typical American high school or college student become a jihadi?
One day he goes to school, soccer practice, violin lessons, does his homework and the next day he wants to kill the infidel? Not exactly. Radicalization is a process of changing a person’s thinking. Jihadi recruiters use many kinds of manipulation to trap young adults into thinking that whatever is wrong with their life now, it will be rainbows and lollipops if they join a terrorist organization.
Young girls who fantasize about getting married and having babies are fooled into thinking that meeting a jihadi fighter online is their dream come true. Young men who fantasize about being the hero of the story are made to believe they can free the Syrian civilians from their peril or miraculously save the world. But nothing could be further from the truth. Militant jihadism is just what it seems to be–a brutal, evil, barbaric, bloodthirsty ideology seeking to turn naive young adults into killers for a political cause.
Expert Valerie Greenfeld has written an important book on the subject called Backyard Jihad: How Parents Can Detect the Invisible Threat of Radicalization. In the book, you will hear from those who were gullible and ruined their lives by listening to recruiters who created an “us” versus “them” scenario. How they believed all the wrongs in life will be made right by embarking on an adventure that steals lives of innocents.
The book also contains the insights of Damian Clairmont’s mother, Christianne Boudreau, who was taken completely off guard when her son (who had converted to Islam) announced he wanted to move to Egypt and study Arabic. She only later found out that he and his roommates joined ISIS. Shortly afterward, she lost all contact with him. Searching social media sites for any clues that might give her some information about Damian’s location, she found nothing. She felt so alone; she didn’t know where to turn for help.
Boudreau spent every spare minute watching Islamic State videos, her nose pressed up against the computer screen … Through the screens and behind the balaclavas, she was looking for her son’s eyes. Sadly, she was finally informed that her son died as a martyr for ISIS. At only 22, he was a victim of Islamism.
His mother confessed that she thought he “was just going through a phase.” She didn’t know the signs of radicalization, she didn’t know what was wrong with her son. She needed information.
Parents today have tools that are available to assist with understanding jihadi indoctrination and why it is attractive to young people who are learning who they are and what they believe. Young adults are discovering what is their purpose and how can they contribute to society.
Jihadi recruiters brainwash young people to become soldiers for jihadi terror and tell them that becoming a martyr will bring their families happiness for their sacrifice. In killing the infidel, the unbeliever, one becomes a praiseworthy follower of Allah because only believers who adhere to the Quran should live.
According to adolescent psychologist Dr. Susana Galle, the changes that take place during adolescence affect the limbic system which rules emotion and motivation. At this time of life, risky behavior is often tied to peer recognition. Seeking like-minded friends leads to the creation of groups. Under normal circumstances, becoming a member of a group is not a problem, but if extremists belong, trying to leave after becoming involved is difficult. Groups can be formed on college campuses, in radical mosques, on social media or even by listening to a radical imam with friends.
The importance of understanding jihadism cannot be underestimated. Every parent should learn how to become aware of the signs of radicalization and the threats that militant jihadism poses to their family and community.
It can happen to anyone–don’t allow it to be you.