Official Blogs from the Anti-Defamation League » ADL Blogs
providing inside access to our work on topics ranging from anti-Semitism and extremism to anti-Israel activity and much more
February 24, 2015 2

Al Shabaab Video Threatens Jewish and Western Targets

The video calls for attacks on "Jewish-owned Westfield shopping centers"

The video calls for attacks on “Jewish-owned West­field shop­ping cen­ters” and other shop­ping cen­ters in the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

A new video released by Al Shabaab, Al Qaeda’s affil­i­ate in Soma­lia, that encour­ages attacks against “Amer­i­can and Jewish-owned shop­ping cen­ters around the world,” high­lights the role of anti-Semitism in ter­ror­ist narrative.

The video focused on Al Shabaab’s Sep­tem­ber 2013 siege of the West­gate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which lasted for three days and resulted in at least 67 fatal­i­ties. At the time of the attack, Al Shabaab claimed to have tar­geted that mall because it had “Jew­ish and Amer­i­can owned” shops. The new video affirmed Al Shabaab’s inter­est in Jew­ish targets.

Its release comes as other ter­ror­ist groups, includ­ing the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al Qaeda, have issued calls for home­grown attacks in the West as they vie against each other for power and followers.

“West­gate shop­ping mall…is a four-story Israeli-owned com­plex,” the video’s nar­ra­tor stated, and in response to the attack, “Israeli secu­rity spe­cial­ists and FBI teams were…on the ground.” The video also put the nation­al­ity “Israeli” first in a list of nation­al­i­ties of the deceased.

Show­cas­ing the 2013 attack enables Al Shabaab to show off its accom­plish­ments to poten­tial new recruits, but the group also appar­ently hopes it may inspire copy­cat attacks. Address­ing West­ern sym­pa­thiz­ers, the nar­ra­tor stated, “We call upon our Mus­lim broth­ers, par­tic­u­larly those in the West…. imag­ine what a ded­i­cated mujahid (fighter) in the West could do to the Amer­i­can and Jewish-owned shop­ping cen­ters across the world.”

It then went on to issue more spe­cific threats: “What if such an attack was to call in the Mall of Amer­ica in Min­nesota, or the West Edmon­ton Mall in Canada? Or in London’s Oxford Street, or any of the hun­dred or so Jewish-owned West­field shop­ping cen­ters dot­ted right across the West­ern world…”

Although Al Shabaab has not staged any sig­nif­i­cant attack out­side East­ern Africa, it has posed a sig­nif­i­cant threat to U.S. secu­rity. At least 50 U.S. cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents have been charged with pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial sup­port to the group or are believed to have joined it. Some of those cit­i­zens are now actively recruit­ing U.S. cit­i­zens to join ISIS and other ter­ror­ist organizations.

Another recent Al Shabaab video, released in May 2014, called for lone wolf attacks in the West.

Anti-Semitism is at the core of Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, and ter­ror­ist groups includ­ing Al Shabaab reg­u­larly use anti-Semitism to attract and rad­i­cal­ize poten­tial recruits. In the past, Al Shabaab declared an “open bat­tle” against Israel, which it called the “oppress­ing Zion­ist entity,” and against Jew­ish inter­ests in Africa. In an English-language mag­a­zine released in 2012, the group called Jews, “the worst enemy of Islam.”

The new video also high­lighted the impor­tance of social media as a vehi­cle for dis­sem­i­nat­ing ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda, claim­ing that “HSM Press (the Al Shabaab Twit­ter feed) soon became the most cred­i­ble source of infor­ma­tion on the attack,” and noted that Al Shabaab had live-streamed the attack on Twit­ter. The video itself was cir­cu­lated on YouTube and on links from Twit­ter to file-sharing sites.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

February 19, 2015 1

Books Matter: The Power of Children’s Literature

Any­one who has ever read to or with a child—parent, fam­ily mem­ber, teacher or friend—knows books leave last­ing impres­sions. Beyond the edu­ca­tional ben­e­fits, books have the power to instill empa­thy, affirm, teach, trans­port and inspire action. Books matter.

Empa­thy
In expos­ing chil­dren to other people’s sto­ries and the moti­va­tions and feel­ings behind those nar­ra­tives, chil­dren begin to con­nect with oth­ers on an emo­tional level, which is the foun­da­tion for bridg­ing dif­fer­ences between worlds. Books have the power to fos­ter empa­thy and under­stand­ing of other peo­ple and cul­tures–their hopes and dreams, their joys and sor­rows, their sto­ries and reflec­tions. Empa­thy is the ground­work for under­stand­ing peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent from one­self. Books open those doors for chil­dren to other places and experiences.

Self-Reflection
Par­ents and edu­ca­tors know that one of the most impor­tant things books do for chil­dren is affirm who they are. Com­monly referred to as “mir­ror” books, they con­tain reflec­tions of the children—their cul­ture, fam­ily, race, reli­gion, etc.—and enable them to see them­selves por­trayed with accu­racy, depth and com­plex­ity. As Charles Blow, a writer and op-ed colum­nist for the New York Times shared about books, “They helped me to see myself and love myself when I felt least seen and least loved. They saved me.”  Through books, chil­dren should be able to see them­selves take on endeavors–both ordi­nary and extra­or­di­nary.  Pos­i­tive iden­tity devel­op­ment is cru­cial dur­ing child­hood and when chil­dren don’t see them­selves in books and else­where, they feel deval­ued and less optimistic.

Unfor­tu­nately, there is often a lack of diver­sity in children’s books.  Although chil­dren of color make up about 40% of the pop­u­la­tion, recent sta­tis­tics show that the num­ber of children’s books fea­tur­ing peo­ple of color has been hov­er­ing around 10% for the past sev­eral years. Other types of diversity—including abil­ity, socioe­co­nomic sta­tus and LGBT peo­ple and families—are also lack­ing. There has been an acknowl­edg­ment of this prob­lem and an out­cry in the edu­ca­tion and lit­er­a­ture worlds to address it. A recent New York Times arti­cle asked, “Where are the peo­ple of color in children’s books?”  The con­cept of “We Need Diverse Books” quickly evolved from a hash­tag to an orga­ni­za­tion, and in 2015, the John New­bury Medal win­ning children’s books all fea­tured an aspect of diver­sity. There is grow­ing aware­ness but change is slow.

Teach and Trans­port
“Win­dow” books have the power to teach chil­dren about aspects of life for which they are unfa­mil­iar. They can shed light on peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent in a myr­iad of ways– reli­gion, fam­ily struc­ture, abil­ity, race or coun­try of ori­gin.  In small and big ways, books can illu­mi­nate dif­fer­ences between peo­ple and reveal how bias is some­times caused by mis­un­der­stand­ing. Poignant words and illus­tra­tions trans­port chil­dren into new realms and expe­ri­ences. Through books, they may learn about some­one who is deaf or autis­tic. They can gain famil­iar­ity with the expe­ri­ences of immi­grants from other coun­tries or those who have fam­ily con­stel­la­tions dif­fer­ent from their own. They may learn about dif­fer­ent cul­tures and their hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions.  Help­ing chil­dren gain com­fort with dif­fer­ences has last­ing benefits.

Action
When chil­dren are faced with bias and bul­ly­ing, it can be dif­fi­cult for them to know what to do. Books can help and they often res­onate with chil­dren in ways noth­ing else does. As young peo­ple look for strate­gies to deal with teas­ing and bul­ly­ing, they can also dis­cover books that help them learn how to be an ally. Sto­ries about peo­ple who stand up to prej­u­dice and injus­tice can inspire chil­dren to see them­selves in oth­ers who have fought for jus­tice, espe­cially child and youth activists.

Whether it’s a nine­teenth cen­tury suf­fragette, a Holo­caust resister or a Nobel prize win­ning Pak­istani girl fight­ing for girls’ edu­ca­tion, through books we can teach chil­dren about the world out­side them­selves, the his­tory of injus­tice and how they can make a difference.

Tags: , , , , ,

February 17, 2015 1

New ADL Report: Homegrown Islamic Extremism In 2014

homegrown-terrorism-isis-imageThe rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its increas­ingly sophis­ti­cated social media com­mu­ni­ca­tion and recruit­ment strate­gies influ­enced a diverse group of peo­ple from around the world, includ­ing from the United States, through­out 2014.

The ADL’s new report, Home­grown Islamic Extrem­ism in 2014: The Rise of ISIS and Sus­tained Online Rad­i­cal­iza­tion, presents key find­ings and trends that result from ISIS’s increas­ing reach, and its ram­i­fi­ca­tions on domes­tic security.

The report describes how at least 17 Amer­i­can cit­i­zens and per­ma­nent res­i­dents moti­vated by the ide­ol­ogy prop­a­gated by ISIS and other Islamic ter­ror­ist groups over­seas were charged in 2014 with terror-related offenses.

Three oth­ers were iden­ti­fied as hav­ing died while fight­ing with ter­ror­ist groups abroad and an addi­tional five minors are believed to have attempted to join such groups but were not charged. Of these 25, nearly all engaged to some degree with online ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda and 19 are believed to have attempted to join or aid ISIS.

These indi­vid­u­als range in age from 15 to 44, with 11 in their twen­ties and 7 in their teens. At least one quar­ter were con­verts to Islam. 32% were women.

The report also draws on find­ings from pre­vi­ous years, not­ing for exam­ple that res­i­dents from 20 states have been charged in con­nec­tion with Islamic extrem­ism since 2012.

In addi­tion, the report describes the new phe­nom­e­non of crim­i­nal acts that have not been defined by author­i­ties as ter­ror­ism but that have been influ­enced by ter­ror­ist pro­pa­ganda – includ­ing mur­ders in New Jer­sey and Okla­homa and an attempted mur­der in New York in 2014.

Finally, it ana­lyzes cur­rent ter­ror­ist nar­ra­tives and recruit­ing tech­niques, includ­ing their use of social media to attract increas­ing num­bers of fol­low­ers and the way anti-Semitism is used to moti­vate recruits.

The full report is avail­able on the ADL web­site.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,