Countering Extremist Recruitment

By Tonka Dobreva 02.26.2015 interact

As you learned on the show today, three young New York residents, ages 19, 24 and 30, were recently arrested for attempting to join ISIS. The news comes just days after three missing school girls from the UK are believed to have entered Syria in an effort to also join the terrorist group. It it estimated that in Europe alone, some 3,000 people have gone to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State (IS).

The alarming trend has been keeping authorities on their toes. Spain announced the breakup of a jihadi recruitment ring targeting young women to join Islamic State. And in Denmark, Islamic extremists are tapping gang members for new recruits.

We take a look at three key factors in countering jihadi recruitment of young people.


Technology and social media have become a main stage for extremist propaganda. The European Union has turned to Internet companies for help. EU authorities  have reached out to Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other companies to discuss ways of removing jihadist propaganda from the Internet. In the US, President Obama has been seeking allies in the Silicon Valley. The president pleaded with social media networks as well as other tech firms to help the US government with what he called the “most serious economic national security challenges that we face as a nation.”


In his speech at the White House summit on countering extremism and radicalization, Vice President Joe Biden emphasized that in order to prevent the spread of violent ideologies at home, the US must “ensure that immigrants are fully included in the fabric of American society.” He also said that immigrants should be offered an “affirmative alternative” to extremism. The White House also stresses the role of community in countering violent extremism, specifically “empowering community efforts to disrupt the radicalization process before an individual engages in criminal activity.”


Last, but not least, education plays a big role in countering extremist recruitment. Muslim clerics from around the world gathered at an anti-terrorism conference in Saudi Arabia and called for reform in religious studies to promote moderation and tolerance. The leaders also called for correction in the historical misreading of the Quran and the life of the Prophet Muhammad.

US Muslim leaders are also taking on the ISIS’ recruiting machine as it distorts the public’s perception of Islam. Imam Mohamed Magid of the Muslim Society in Sterling, Va. told the New York Times that he tries to stay in touch with a teenager who was approached by IS recruiters online. Imam Magid explained that recruiters wouldn’t leave the teenager alone and that they communicated with him on social media at all hours. Imam Magid says he has successfully intervened in the cases of five other young men, persuading them to abandon plans to fight overseas.

What do you think? What are some ways that the US and the world can prevent young people from getting sucked in extremist propaganda? Share your opinion in the comments section below.


  1. Heather

    To answer your question yes, I think that we can help to prevent people from joining or falling for extremist propaganda:

    1. We need to educate everyone not just kids in this country about world cultures and the beliefs of others.
    2. We need to let people honestly know what is happening over there, and let kids and young adults see that it is not a dream and not some heroic fight.
    3. We need to show young people that they can be heroes here at home, give them away to make a difference in this world, and purpose in their lives.

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