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Facebook, Whatsapp: Major recruiting tools for radicalization

  • Published at 02:43 am July 25th, 2019
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AFP

For persuading university students, radical groups  used messaging or texting in their recruitment efforts – particularly on Facebook and Whatsapp – in certain parts of Bangladesh.

Radical groups largely use Facebook and Whatsapp to contact university students to persuade them to join extremist groups, according to a study conducted by the Center for Enterprise and Society (CES) at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB).

The research, “Social Media and Radicalization of University Students in Bangladesh,” authored by Sajid Amit, director CES and Executive MBA (EMBA) at ULAB, and Lumbini Barua, CES research associate, was based on a quantitative survey of 470 university students in Dhaka, Sylhet, and Rajshahi as well as interviews of experts.

The study finds that 17.2% of students reported being approached online to join a religious group. Although it is not clear if the groups have links with extremists, experts think that extremist groups may be active on social media.

For persuading university students, radical groups  used messaging or texting in their recruitment efforts – particularly on Facebook and Whatsapp – in certain parts of Bangladesh.

Alongside religious misinterpretations, secular motivations and tactics are being used by extremists to recruit new people. For instance, “financial incentives” and the promise of a “strong brotherhood” have a strong role to play in persuading students to join extremist groups.

Notably, most students block, ignore, or report such mobile numbers or accounts on social media, but not to local authorities.

A shocking finding of the study is that around a third of university students suggested that religious extremism may be necessary in some parts of the world, due to the oppression and subjugation of Muslims.

It is also shocking that 26.2%, or the second largest percentage of respondents said that this view falls within the framework of a correct and true understanding of Islam, in certain circumstances. This raises the question of  how then are the youth of the country learning about religion?

The study recommends countering radicalization with curricular and co-curricular activities at educational institutions, and teaching social media ethics or social media safety to students, so they can stay safe and vigilant when they are online.

The authors emphasized the need to facilitate youth-led social media awareness campaigns and recommended that universities teach a mandatory course on current affairs that offers a nuanced view of events and conflicts, so that young people do not grow up with a “victim” mentality.