While there is a great deal of debate on what constitutes terrorism and who is a terrorist, there is little doubt that youths are beginning to play a significant role in this particular arena. Structured and deliberate strategies have been formulated by terrorists to radicalise and recruit young people into committing acts of violence. The advantages in targeting the youths into joining terrorists groups are many and terrorists are displaying increased capability and capacity in enlisting them. This coupled with the growing exploitation of technology such as the Internet has allowed the terrorists a far and wide reach.
So what is it that makes such a destructive organisation so appealing? Why would a young person be attracted to this kind of thing?
It’s important to remember, IS usually connects with young people first through social media. Their goal is to produce 30-40 high quality videos a day in almost every language. “They have an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Twitter accounts and guides for carrying out jihad or how to join the Islamic State are easily available on-line.”
Contrarian viewpoint to mainstream thought
Young people have always been drawn to ideas that reject the “status quo” and combat what’s being done by mainstream adults, who’ve seemingly bought into the establishment. Extremists are contrarian, and while unhealthy in their methods, they offer ways for youth to express themselves for what they believe is “civil rights,” taking on a perceived “unjust system” wherever they live.
The offer to become someone significant
One practice the terrorist groups do well is pitch the idea that to join them, your identity will improve. You will be somebody important. You will know people who are important. Experts say one of the greatest draws for young followers is the promise of belonging to a significant collective. Members tell their stories of impact and the stories can be heard in schools, in communities and on-line.
Grievances against society as a whole
The Islamic Jihadists attract those who experience negative emotions. They appeal to those who are disenfranchised and they franchise them. Many causes throughout history have drawn the marginalised young person who feels they have nothing to lose. Charlie Winter, an expert in jihadist militancy says, “Real or perceived grievances in the hands of a recruiter can reach fever pitch.”
The challenge to invest your life in something big
Extremist groups offer a cause to join. Ideology is very important but it is also about how people feel about the society they live in, according to experts. Organisation like al-Qaeda is more than just an organisation; it is an ideology and a popular global brand that spins a heroic narrative with an idealised version of Islamic jihad. Al-Qaeda’s ubiquitous message of anti-Muslim oppression and global jihad appeals to the developmental needs of adolescents.
The appeal doesn’t begin with violence. It begins with doing something significant, focusing on being someone important. Once a young adult buys in big time, they’re willing to take extreme measures on behalf of the cause. They want to prove they belong.