J. J. Baloch
World of ours is witnessing new trends in the industry of human warfare and social violence. In that, the extremists are making the most of the social media as a great opportunity to access the tender minds and thereby to radicalise youth worldwide. Young volunteers for war, militancy, violence are increasing to an unprecedented level _a situation which calls for an appropriate strategic response on the parts of governments facing the challenge of extremism and terrorism in their societies.
Historical records unveil that the using children and teens for crime, violence, terrorism, and war are not a new phenomenon. However, in the past using children as suicide bombers and human shields was greek to many people from different parts of the world. Rather, it was the established war morals to keep elderly, womenfolk, and children away from any kind of attack, damage, hostage and molestation.
The post 9/11 world is pinned with terrorism: a new form of war and political violence. From Al-Qaida to ISIS now, the terrorists have been innovating their war with their declared enemies. From suicide bombers to flag-bearers and field fighters, extremists prefer to recruit teens who prove very passionate and lethal warriors.
The terrorist group, ISIS, have their own ideology, own worldview and own modus operandi. They consider themselves as the legitimate new version of Al-Qaida. After Bin Ladin his twelve-year son appeared in the video clip to claim himself his legitimate successor. Similarly, ISIS’s power of fight or their war strength comes from youth volunteers and their use of social media for propaganda and communication.
There are many media and scholarly reports that the teens worldwide are joining the war in large number. These teens mainly hail from Muslim Communities in western countries especially USA, UK, EU, Australia and Canada. These young people include both the boys and girls. Very recent precedence include Finland, UK, Australia and Canada. Finland has reportedly been the leader in getting their youth radicalised on social media.
The governments and think tanks in these countries are worried over this massive youth volunteerism for war and are busy exploring the reasons for such a grand global trend. Some studies have come up with startling findings of it. Very interesting to note is that not only Muslim boys and girls are leaving their hearts and homes to join a war from where no one is sure to return back alive and safe but also non-Muslims are also flocking to Syria either as a converts to Islam or as volunteers to join their communities which they think are the targets of ISIS, meaning thereby they are those who are landing in Syria to fight against the ISIS and to bring an end to bloodshed.
However, compared to those who join as supporters of ISIS, their number is very small. ISIS is working to convert young people to volunteer fighters from the life of luxury. They join them without seeking permissions from their families. The studies further unveil that the main reason of the joining of war in Syria by youth from developed countries is their dissatisfaction with their lives in their high-tech societies which they believe are devoid of spiritual influences and are teeming with materialistic trends in their respective societies where humans have become machines of minting money, not doing anything with emotions and culture of mankind.
The other prominent reason, the studies in this realm suggest is the social media opportunity for ISIS to reach very large audiences in highly social media user countries such as the USA, European countries and Australia. These are the countries where 95% Youth is on social media as per very recent research reports of Pew Research Centre at Harvard University. On social media, the extremists expose the people being killed by air strikes, drones by the allied forces and also by the native unpopular governments as that of Bashar-Al-Asad in Syria and that of Haider-Al-Abadi in Iraq. The trail of barbarity so inflicted on children, women and elderly cultivate revenge in youth worldwide.
The messages like, “We Want You”; “You are Hope and future” etc, go deep in the tender minds. They are inspired, scared, and enthralled by the extremists who make them believe that if you would not fight against the barbarism of the state and its rulers, you will surely fall victim to them one day. Fight to live; fight to survive; fight to progress; and fight to succeed not only in this world but in hereafter also are the thematic base which appeal to socially segregated and disgruntled youth, who are in habit of talking to their smartphones, tablets, laptops and computers in much better way than on face to face interactive sessions, fall very easy prey the extremist charisma.
Even in Pakistan’s recent terrorists attacks the age of attackers have been between 14 to 22. Almost all the arrested teen terrorists have confessed during their interrogations that they were killing themselves to enter into paradise as per the religious discourse told by the handlers. Secondly, those who fall victim to the sermons of radicalists have some common characters who get ready for taking such a drastic action just on brainwashing of hours. These characteristics as per researches and studies made on the topic include failure in love, molestation during tender age, gender, caste, and racial discriminations, sectarian biases, victimisation on the basis of identity, poor life with no hope of betterment, indoctrination during religious education, and engineered narratives which hide truth and rightfulness and thrive on falsifications and self-ordained ultra duties and responsibilities. The recent way of terrorist attacks during this February of 2017 in Pakistan have certified the point in point regarding the vulnerability of underage teens to fall an easy prey to the temptations of paradise, wine, hoors, and other luxury items.
Extremists have hackers and digital experts who are working v smartly and strategically on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, flicker, Skype, YouTube and many other social sites. For this, they need no permission, no legal formality, no physical mechanism except the internet connection. They create content and publish it without edition or deletion. They can exchange weapon and ammunition making formulas including bomb __ chemical and nuclear without any check. They have the opportunity to converse with anybody anywhere and anytime. This is called social media opportunity.
In a nutshell, social media usage by extremists gives them the edge on their enemies. Extremists need no aeroplanes, no tanks, no weapons, and no armies to invade and conquer the civilized world because they can penetrate any home, any organisation and any mind in civilized world through social media. The message, rights or wrong; news, right or wrong; blog, right or wrong can play havoc with everything, so targeted. What modern governments are doing and going to do in terms of countering this trend of terror export will matter greatly the future of war and peace in the world.
WRITER is a Senior Cop at Police Service of Pakistan and a social media analyst.