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· People from all walks of society need to contribute to help provide opportunity and hope for young people
· Schools, sporting organizations, places of worship, prisons and social media deserve special attention
· World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa, taking place in Jordan on 6-7 April, brings together more than 1,000 leaders of government, business, civil society, faith and academia
· Find more information about the World Economic Forum and follow the meeting
Dead Sea, Jordan, 7 April 2019 – People from all walks of life need to contribute in their own ways to help provide opportunity and hope for young people to keep them from being radicalized by extremist groups such as ISIS. “Terrorists prey on injustice and desperation,” said Anne Speckhard, Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE), USA.
That was the consensus of a multistakeholder panel on radicalization, which took place at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa today.
If the root causes of their attraction are not addressed, ISIS and other radical groups will continue to recruit young people in the Middle East and around the world, particularly in Europe. “There is a claim of the territorial defeat” of ISIS, said Speckhard. “You can kill a person or take territory, but ideas still live.”
She added that there are four factors that contribute to radicalization: group identity, ideology, social support systems and a person’s own vulnerability.
Often descendants of immigrants, many young Europeans can feel disconnected or abandoned by their home countries. “I ask them why and they say that France has forgotten us,” said Latifa Ibn Ziaten, Founder, Imad Association for Youth and Peace, France.
A poor young man with no hopes for marriage could be attracted by the offer of a bride; a kid of 13 might find it exciting just to receive a regular salary. “It is different for each person,” said Speckhard.
“They start working with children when they are four, five or six,” said Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. “Often their parents are needy. By the time they are 14-15 they know nothing but violence.”
Education was highlighted as a key factor to combat radicalization. Efforts need to be concentrated in places where young people are easily recruited: sporting organizations, places of worship, prisons and on social media. Inflammatory messages and videos need to be culled from social media, argued Ibn Ziaten.
Rather than to deny the “Islamic nature” of groups such as ISIS, said Ahmad Iravani, President and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME). “We have to get close to the needs of the young generation.”
Sports, including the fanfare surrounding the football World Cup, scheduled for Qatar in three years, can help rally young people around more constructive activities, said Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary-General, Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, Qatar. “We have to be absolute optimists or else we will fail,” he said.
Many young Muslims do not believe the negative images of terrorists they see on mainstream media. “They look at it as a plot to destroy Islam,” said Iravani. They see something and will interpret it the opposite way.
The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa is being held at the Dead Sea in Jordan on 6-7 April in partnership with the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD). The meeting marks the 10th hosted by Jordan since it was first convened at the Dead Sea in 2003. It is bringing together more than 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders from over 50 countries.
The Co-Chairs of this year’s meeting are: Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive, Bahrain Economic Development Board, Bahrain; Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates; Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of Tourism of Egypt; Alain Bejjani, Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Holding, United Arab Emirates; Wafa Ben-Hassine, MENA Policy Counsel, Access Now, USA; Sumantra Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), London; Tony F. Chan, President, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia; and Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.
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All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Economic Forum Blog is an independent and neutral platform dedicated to generating debate around the key topics that shape global, regional and industry agendas.