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June 14, 2016 4

We Are Not Powerless When Faced with Hate, Bias, Propaganda and Extremism

No Place For Hate spokesperson Lady Gaga talks about the importance of being an ally at the Los Angeles rally for the Orlando attack victims

Los Ange­les rally for the Orlando attack victims

The unspeak­able tragedy that took place at the Pulse Club in Orlando, FL in the early morn­ing of June 12 brings with it a wide range of emo­tions for peo­ple across the coun­try and world. Those feel­ings include anger, sor­row, loss, hope­less­ness, hor­ror, fear, rage and also—a sense of pow­er­less­ness. It is easy to feel pow­er­less when you think there is noth­ing you can do: noth­ing you can do about the hate, the gun vio­lence, the ter­ror­ism and the extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda that takes place in the lonely crevices of the internet.

But we are not pow­er­less. We know that just as bias and hate are learned, they can also be unlearned. We know that there is poten­tial leg­is­la­tion for lim­it­ing gun vio­lence and auto­matic weapon acces­si­bil­ity. We know that the pro­pa­ganda used to recruit young peo­ple for ter­ror­ism can be addressed by help­ing them decon­struct this pro­pa­ganda, address­ing vul­ner­a­ble stu­dents’ feel­ings of mar­gin­al­iza­tion, stigma, and iso­la­tion and cre­at­ing school com­mu­ni­ties where all stu­dents feel safe and respected.  We know that the esca­la­tion of hate —if addressed on more sub­tle lev­els which include bias, belit­tling and stereotyping—can be stopped in its tracks before it makes its way up to the pyra­mid to bias-motivated violence.

Specif­i­cally, we need to guide and teach young people:

  • To explore their own iden­tity, learn about other kinds of peo­ple and reflect on how to play, work, learn and live with peo­ple who are dif­fer­ent than they are. This is eas­ier said than done and takes active and inten­tional work at home, in schools and among the adults in young people’s lives who also need to self-reflect and be good role mod­els. While we don’t know for sure if the shooter tar­geted the club because it was an LGBT estab­lish­ment or because it was “Latin Night,” we know that accept­ing one­self and oth­ers is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent to liv­ing in a plu­ral­is­tic society.
  • To treat oth­ers with respect and not fall prey to judg­ment and stereo­typ­ing when peo­ple are dif­fer­ent. For exam­ple, the anti-Muslim big­otry, bias and rhetoric that has been a per­ma­nent fix­ture since 9/11 and is exac­er­bated after an attack like the recent one, only feeds into the ter­ror­ism dan­ger and increased recruit­ment and rad­i­cal­iza­tion poten­tial. Often times, the very peo­ple who are most at risk for extrem­ist behav­ior find them­selves in that sit­u­a­tion because ter­ror­ist groups tell Mus­lims that the U.S. is at war with them and their reli­gion, there­fore rein­forc­ing the ter­ror­ists’ pro­pa­ganda. This Islam­o­pho­bia  actu­ally makes us more vul­ner­a­ble rather than less so.
  • To under­stand what bias is, the dif­fer­ent forms it takes (e.g. racism, homo­pho­bia, reli­gious big­otry, sex­ism, etc.) and how—over the course of history—injustice has been over­come by peo­ple address­ing it in large and small ways—both per­sonal and insti­tu­tional.  We need to teach young peo­ple how to be an ally and the ways in which activism makes a difference.
  • To be crit­i­cal and ana­lyt­i­cal thinkers and specif­i­cally, to be judi­cious read­ers of online pro­pa­ganda and cyber­hate  as a weapon to coun­ter­act the power of it. If stu­dents are able to decon­struct the sub­tle mes­sages in pro­pa­ganda and under­stand how its cre­ators use it to manip­u­late young peo­ple, that decreases their oppor­tu­nity to take advan­tage of vul­ner­a­ble youth.
  • To work with oth­ers to do some­thing about the bias, vio­lence and hate they see in the world. As the news made its way into people’s homes on Sun­day morn­ing, there was an imme­di­ate and over­whelm­ing response to the need for donat­ing blood, so much that they had to ask peo­ple to stop com­ing. Across the coun­try and world, vig­ils are tak­ing place to mourn, con­vene with oth­ers and show the world that intol­er­ance and hate are unac­cept­able. In addi­tion to these imme­di­ate expres­sions of sup­port, there is long term activism that can take place around bias, injus­tice, gun laws and hate crimes leg­is­la­tion.

In U.S. schools, fears of extrem­ism, rad­i­cal­iza­tion and mass vio­lence have become all too famil­iar.  It is impor­tant that schools, too, feel a sense of power that there is some­thing they can do about those fears and real­i­ties. Among other things, they can under­stand and reflect on the pre­cur­sors to vio­lent activ­ity, iden­tify warn­ing signs and refer young peo­ple to spe­cific and appro­pri­ate sup­port, cre­ate safe com­mu­ni­ties of learn­ing that includes anti-bias pro­grams and pro­vide resources for stu­dents who are tar­gets of bias and bullying.

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May 24, 2016 0

List of Americans who Joined ISIS Reinforces Statistical Trends

Douglas McAuthur McCain, among the Americans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

Dou­glas McAu­thur McCain, among the Amer­i­cans on the list, died in Syria in 2014

NBC recently released the names of 15 U.S. res­i­dents who allegedly trav­eled to join ISIS since 2013. The names had been pro­vided to the net­work by an indi­vid­ual who claimed to be a defec­tor from ISIS and were report­edly ver­i­fied by West Point’s Com­bat­ing Ter­ror­ism Cen­ter and other coun­tert­er­ror­ism specialists.

While three of the indi­vid­u­als on the list – Abdi Nur, Yusuf Jama, and Dou­glas McCain – had already been pub­licly known, the other 12 had not. The list serves as a reminder that, while a con­sid­er­able num­ber of U.S. res­i­dents who have attempted to travel to join ISIS have been iden­ti­fied, there are still more whose iden­ti­ties remain unclear – as many as 250 accord­ing to law enforce­ment sources. The names and back­grounds of indi­vid­u­als on the NBC list also serve as vital reminders of the diver­sity of the indi­vid­u­als attracted to Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, and rein­forces what we do know about who these indi­vid­u­als are.

Indi­vid­u­als on the list came from across the U.S. Among the states rep­re­sented were Cal­i­for­nia, Mass­a­chu­setts, Min­nesota, New York , Ohio, Texas, Vir­ginia, and Wash­ing­ton. This geo­graphic diver­sity is no sur­prise. ADL’s analy­sis of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism between 2009 and 2015 indi­cated that the indi­vid­u­als had been arrested in 32 states, as well as inter­na­tion­ally. States with the high­est num­bers of arrests included New York, Min­nesota, Cal­i­for­nia and Illinois.

One of the indi­vid­u­als on the list was female, and the rest were male. While fewer women have engaged in activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism than men, the pro­por­tion of women has increased in recent years. ADL doc­u­mented only 12 U.S. women in total linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy in the 11 years between 2002 and 2013, but there were 10 in 2014 and seven in 2015 (exclud­ing the woman on the NBC list); there has already been one woman out of the 11 U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy thus far in 2016.

Inter­est­ingly, the woman on the list, Zakia Nas­rin, was joined in her extrem­ist pur­suits by her hus­band and her younger brother. Of the 109 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror­ism moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in 2014 and 2015, at least 28 indi­vid­u­als were accused or impli­cated together with fam­ily members.

The aver­age age of the indi­vid­u­als on the list when they trav­eled to join ISIS was 22 years old. The old­est was 33 and the youngest 18. This is a lit­tle younger than aver­age. ADL data indi­cates that the aver­age age of U.S. res­i­dents who trav­eled or attempted to travel to join ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions abroad between 2009 and 2015 was 25 years old, while the aver­age over­all age of U.S. res­i­dents linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy was 28. How­ever, the num­ber of young peo­ple has been increas­ing as well; in 2015, there were a total of 25 out of 81 U.S. res­i­dents linked to ter­ror moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy who were 21 years old or younger.

At least one of the indi­vid­u­als on the list claimed to have con­verted to Islam. A lit­tle over one quar­ter of U.S. res­i­dents who have been linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ism in recent years sim­i­larly were not raised iden­ti­fy­ing as Mus­lims, but rather con­verted or claimed to have con­verted to Islam, at least nom­i­nally. Impor­tantly, these con­ver­sions do not nec­es­sar­ily mean they are accepted as Mus­lims by the main­stream Amer­i­can Mus­lim com­mu­nity, nor does it mean they have been par­tic­u­larly obser­vant. As with other indi­vid­u­als linked to activ­ity moti­vated by Islamic extrem­ist ide­ol­ogy, these con­verts embraced rad­i­cal inter­pre­ta­tions of Islam.

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May 23, 2016 2

Belgian Politicians Honor a Terrorist

Bel­gium has suf­fered sev­eral dev­as­tat­ing ter­ror attacks in recent times, includ­ing one against the Jew­ish Museum of Bel­gium.  Despite that his­tory and the con­tin­u­ing ele­vated threat from ISIS, six Bel­gian elected offi­cials have called for a ter­ror­ist to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mar­wan Bargh­outi is in an Israeli prison, con­victed of the mur­der of four Israeli Jews and a Greek monk in three sep­a­rate ter­ror attacks.  The Bel­gian politi­cians would like to see him instead feted on a stage in Oslo.

In the judg­ment of an Israeli court, he deserved five life sen­tences for his direct involve­ment in ter­ror­ism.  In the judg­ment of these Bel­gian politi­cians, Bargh­outi deserves a cov­eted inter­na­tional honor.

Israeli courts are widely esteemed for their impar­tial work for jus­tice.  It will be impos­si­ble to say the same of Sen­a­tors Nadia El Yousfi (Social­ist Party) and Benoît Hellings (Ecol­o­gist Party) and Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment Piet De Bruyn (New Flem­ish Alliance), Jean-Marc Delizée (Social­ist Party), Gwe­naëlle Grovo­nius (Social­ist Party), Dirk Van der Mae­len (Social Demo­c­rat), and Vin­cent Van Quick­en­borne (Open Flem­ish Liberals).

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