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Forum in Jordan

If the root causes of attraction are not addressed, ISIS and other radical groups will continue to recruit young people in the Middle East and around the world, particularly in Europe, a World Economic Forum gathering heard.

You can kill a person or take territory, but ideas still live, said Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) based in the United States. She suggested four factors contribute to radicalisation: group identity, ideology, social support systems and a person’s own vulnerability. A poor young man with no hopes for marriage could be attracted by the offer of a bride; a 13-year-old might find it exciting just to receive a regular salary. “It is different for each person,” said Speckhard.

Often descendants of immigrants, many young Europeans can feel disconnected or abandoned by their home countries. Latifa Ibn Ziaten, Founder, Imad Association for Youth and Peace, France, told the event: “I ask them why and they say that France has forgotten us.

“They start working with children when they are four, five or six,” said Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. “Often their parents are needy. By the time they are 14-15 they know nothing but violence.”

Education was highlighted as a key factor to combat radicalisation. Efforts need to be concentrated in places where young people are easily recruited: sporting organisations, places of worship, prisons and on social media. Inflammatory messages and videos need to be culled from social media, argued Ibn Ziaten.

Rather than to deny the “Islamic nature” of groups such as ISIS, said Ahmad Iravani, President and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME). “We have to get close to the needs of the young generation.”

Sports, including the fanfare surrounding the football World Cup, scheduled for Qatar in three years, can help rally young people around more constructive activities, said Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar. “We have to be absolute optimists or else we will fail,” he said.

Many young Muslims do not believe the negative images of terrorists they see on mainstream media. “They look at it as a plot to destroy Islam,” said Iravani. They see something and will interpret it the opposite way.

The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa ran with 1,000 leaders from government, business and civil society at the Dead Sea in Jordan on April 6 and 7.


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