It's no secret the so-called Islamic State is on the move using recruiters to gain the support of radicalized people from around the globe, but could your own child be at risk for recruitment?
Your child is likely someone who you may not suspect of ever joining a radicalized group. A friendly, compassionate, and seemingly intelligent kid is typically not who a person thinks of when they think of a person who would run away and join a group which kidnaps and beheads innocent people.
That's exactly what Aqsa Mahmood's family never saw coming when they looked at her. Aqsa was a likable and intelligent teen from Scotland who seemingly lived an average life of a popular teen. Aqsa is now one of the most active recruiters for the Islamic State after running away from home to join fighters in Syria back in November, 2013, according to the New York Times.
What went so horribly wrong with Aqsa? How could such a happy, smart, and good girl make such a disturbing decision? It's not the outcasts the Islamic State militants want or can take advantage of, according to the Mahmood family's lawyer, Aamer Anwar.
"It is those young people who are liked, who are smart, who think, who are caring, who are ripe for radicalization."Teenage girls are especially at risk, and the abduction begins right in their very own homes. Often it begins with contact through Twitter or another social networking account.
The lack of clear communication in the family home about what is really going on in Syria and other countries can be particularly disturbing to teens who are exploring their religious and personal identity. They may seek to find answers online, and then Islamic State recruiters step in to fill in all the blanks. Females are drawn in by tales of an untrue fantasy life.
The girls want to join the Islamic State because they may feel a sense of purpose or a religious duty, a desire to step in and do something to help those who have suffered in Syria's civil war, or to simply fall in love with an Islamic State fighter, according to the L.A. Times.
Girls are not typically wanted to fight but to raise families and continue the cycle of radicalized generations. As early as nine-years-old, girls can be married. Once the girls arrive and are married, they realize the life they imagined is not the life which awaits them.
Boys typically want to join the Islamic State to feel a sense of belonging. The desire to fight without knowing the realities of war, other than through gory pictures and glorified videos, may also be present.
Parents may not realize their children are becoming radicalized unless they notice their children are more interested in Syria, the Islamic State, or are becoming more secretive about their internet habits. It is important for parents to keep an open line of communication with their children about the dangers of speaking to strangers online at any age and to be prepared to talk about the events happening in Syria and other countries.
The Islamic State recruiters will continue to lure any child or adult they can in order to strengthen and spread their ideology and boundaries. Parents need to be cautious, aware, and monitor each child's online activities to prevent any predator from taking advantage of their children in the supposed safety of their own homes.
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