Community Plays a Role in Countering Extremism

Community Plays a Role in Countering Extremism


One of the greatest threats we face today is violent extremism, and there is an urgent need to combat it. With terrorist organizations operating overseas and many terrorists having access to the internet which they use to spread their propaganda, the U.S. Department of Justice is doing everything possible to respond to these threats. One of their goals is to work within local communities in order to identify threats before they appear, disrupt any attempts at domestic terrorism, and stop any potential violent extremists before they strike.

As recent news cases have shown, young people who feel alienated from their community, adopted country, or ancestral homeland have the highest risk for being swayed by a terrorist recruiter. Many of these violent extremist groups entice young people by catering to basic adolescent developmental needs such as the need for a distinct identity, the need for adventure, or the need for meaning or belonging. They exploit the vulnerabilities of potential recruits by offering them certain incentives that feed these needs. They offer empty promises about their future activities, about them having a great sense of purpose, and about the supposed family-like bonds their organization can provide.

While it’s true that recruitment does take place in person, the internet is being more an more widely used as an easy means to disseminate terrorist ideologies to a larger group of people and increase the number of recruits for these organizations. Extremist groups use the internet to broadcast may forms of propaganda including videos, pictures, and speeches. They not only promote their extremist views online but also engage in other activities including recruiting, training, fund-raising and even the planning of operations.

Think of outlets like Twitter which has over 500 million users, YouTube with more than 1 billion users and 6 billion hours of accessible video, and other sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp, SnapChat, and even console gaming platforms such as Playstation and Xbox Live. Any of these could be used by terrorist organizations to recruit young people into their ranks. Online games and gaming websites such as World of Warcraft, Second Life, and Call of Duty draw a large fan base and have large numbers of players. Environments like those can also be used by extremist organizations to recruit others, so it’s important that you be careful about who you associate with when you play games like these. If anyone begins saying things that rub you the wrong way, log off and avoid them in the future. If need be, you can report them to the game admins.

They key to communities being able to counter extremist activities is open communication. Keeping open communication with parents, teachers and religious leaders will allow them to be able to then communicate with their youth and be able to identify those who may be at risk for being susceptible to recruitment and help them to avoid getting involved with the wrong people. We can protect our communities by being proactive and maintaining a dialogue so that we can better safeguard the futures of these youth who might fall prey to extremist recruitment.  By preventing the exploitation of these young people, we can keep them out of harm’s way and prevent extremists groups from growing their ranks. As a community, we have a joint responsibility to work together and keep our young people safe.

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