What makes young people turn to extremism?

As 2017 comes towards its closure, it’s only natural to look back on the year’s events. Whilst we should count our blessings on some fronts, it’s with a feeling of incredible sadness that we remember those who have lost their lives due to acts of terrorism.

In May, when the news hit that the Manchester Arena had been targeted, the British public drew a sharp intake of breath. Previous terrorist attacks had been centred on London, the country’s capital and an obvious target. Now we were seeing terrorism occur outside the boundaries of what we’d become used to, not just geographically but demographically too. Ariana Grande had been a child star, greatly admired by the young people who had come in their thousands to see her live performance. The attack on the arena had been premeditated with this in mind. Out of the 22 people killed, six were under 18 and there were 170 children in the foyer who witnessed the attack.

Are we looking for somebody to blame?
When considering those who commit these dreadful crimes, our natural reaction turns to anger. We search for an explanation, some cause that drives these people to act with such evil, often laying the blame at the door of religion or brainwashing or an egocentric desire for fame or martyrdom. What we find most confusing is that the people committing these acts of violence - not just in the UK, but across Europe - are not citizens of another country, but people born and raised in the very countries they choose to attack.

In the TED Talk ‘What we don’t know about Europe’s Muslim kids and why we should care,’ Deeyah Khan talks in detail about her experience as a Muslim growing up in Norway, where, as a young female musician she struggled to be accepted by both her own community and the predominantly white non-Muslim society in which she was born. After being continually harassed and threatened, at the age of 17 she fled to London, but was quickly met with the same prejudices. Describing herself as feeling lost and falling apart, she eventually moved to the US, giving up her music career because of fear. In doing so, she made a pledge: to help other young people in Europe who feel trapped in a position between family and culture.

The gap between country and culture
As a film director, Deeyah Khan now uses her experience to generate awareness of the clash of cultures between Muslim parents who prioritise honour over their children's desire for freedom. She argues that we need to understand what is happening to fight the pull of extremism. Over the last few years she has spent her time interviewing convicted terrorists, Jihadis and former extremists to find out how and why they fell victim to extremist organisations and ideologies. In her own words, she describes meeting: “Not monsters, but broken people. People who were torn apart from trying to bridge the gaps between their families and the countries they were born in. People looking for a sense of significance, belonging and purpose.” She found that people were lured by extremist groups because their leaders promised them the things they needed: a voice, visibility, importance and a community that loves and accepts them. Sadly, many of these groups have their own agenda: to channel people’s vulnerabilities and frustrations towards violence.

How technology has enabled extremism
Former Islamist extremist, Maajid Nawaz, now a British activist and prominent critic of Islamism, cites similar reasons for being drawn into extremism. Born in Essex, he recalls the feeling of being divided between his Pakistani and British identities as an important factor in his struggle to find his own identity. In his TED Talk, he discusses his own journey into extremism at the age of 16 and now, how borderless technologies and digital activism have enabled extremist organisations to propagate their messages across the world, capitalising on communication channels that didn’t exist 20 years ago. Whilst the Internet has brought us freedom to harvest information, we also know that it’s the perfect tool to reach and influence young people sitting at home in their bedrooms. Exchanges take place under the radar and can go undetected. In becoming part of an online extremist group, young people feel they’ve become part of something in which they feel exclusive and privileged, and often feel more valued than they would in wider society.

What can we do as educators?
Those of us in the teaching profession will be familiar with the Prevent Duty, part of the overall counter-terrorism strategy which aims to reduce the terrorist threat to the UK by stopping people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. One of the key strategy objectives is to respond to the ideologies spread by extremists that it is not possible to be both Muslim and British, and that Muslims living in the UK should not participate in our democracy.

The Internet is one of key channels that extremist groups exploit to spread their messages. By publishing fake news and propaganda, they aim to influence and manipulate young people’s perceptions of themselves and the world, ultimately impregnating their theories behind the justification for extremism and terrorist behaviour.

As teaching professionals, we can help prevent extremism through education, but also through the exchange of dialogue. PSHE lessons provide the perfect opportunity to do this. Young people should be encouraged to talk about how they use the Internet and how they evaluate and interpret the content they see. Conversations should include the understanding of how Internet content is produced, what people’s motivations are for producing particular content, and how students can make a valid judgement between what is, and what isn’t a credible source of information. These lessons can also prove invaluable for sharing experiences of content seen online that students may have felt upset by, or content they don’t understand and would like to discuss. It may also open the door for those being contacted by extremists, or who have researched extremism to seek help if they are feeling isolated.

Get up to speed on radicalisation awareness

If you’re in need of additional support on the subject of anti-radicalisation, the topical resources from E-safety Support have been designed to help all members of the school community (pupils, parents and staff) understand more about the issue of radicalisation and in particular the part the Internet plays in encouraging people to consider extremist views.

Resources available include classroom materials, a parent guide, a school checklist, school policy and CPD accredited staff training

Premium Plus members can access all the resources from their E-safety Support dashboard.
Free members can download the anti-radicalisation checklist and also preview the online training.

Written by E-safety Support on November 09, 2017 11:18

E-safety Tips for Whole School Engagement

15 tips to encourage pupils, parents and staff to get involved in e-safety

E-safety SeminarThe recent E-safety Seminar held in collaboration with ChatFOSS, saw teachers from across the country coming together to discuss e-safety issues in their schools.

We heard from Henry Platten of eCadets about empowering children to embrace technology. Michael Brennan from Tootoot discussed his experience of bullying at school and how this lead to the development of their safeguarding reporting tool for schools. Tim Pinto led a discussion on the Ofsted requirements for e-safety and Alicia Coad of ChatFOSS rounded off the formal presentations with information on social media and working with parents.

To complete the day, all the delegates worked together to come up with 15 tips to help engage the whole school community with e-safety. Here are their suggestions:

Pupil Empowerment

  • Enlist Cyber-Buddies as peer mentors and a point of contact for pupils
  • Give students a voice on e-safety issues
  • Carry our data surveys in the classroom on current apps etc
  • Engaging Parents

  • Share survey findings with parents
  • Share e-safety videos with parents too
  • Regularly drip-feed e-safety news/web links to keep it current
  • Curriculum

  • Ensure all staff and governors are up-to-date with e-safety issues
  • Involve all staff with e-safety education, in particular PSHE
  • Have students deliver curriculum content in assemblies etc
  • Digital Literacy

  • Encourage pupils to choose a new name for e-safety/digital well-being
  • Work with pupils and staff to create a school policy
  • Establish 'Digital Leaders' to help share knowledge
  • Staff

  • Ensure all staff understand everyone is responsible for e-safety
  • Let staff know that it's ok to ask for help
  • Include videos in e-safety awareness training
  • If you would like to share your tips for engaging the whole school, please email news@e-safetysupport.com

    An extra tip received from Mary at a secondary school in London is to include e-safety tips on student planners.

    Written by E-safety Support on July 07, 2016 11:59

    The recruitment of young people to extremist causes

    How the Internet is being used to recruit impressionable young people and why schools are at the frontline of tackling the issue

    Extremism EducationOver the summer holidays we have read reports of minors being taken into care because authorities have evidence of parents radicalising their children. Even Boris Johnson has been quoted in the Guardian as stating that radicalisation is considered child abuse and should be tackled head on. The surge in children being taken into care because of this reason is being blamed on the power of the Internet as a communication and networking tool, as well as the ease of access of social media. If recent cases are examples on this matter then it seems this maybe the case.

    The latest reports suggest up to 550 young Britons have made the journey to Syria to join the frontline. We are also familiar with the story of five 15 year old girls from Bethnal Green who gave up everything to become Muslim brides for IS fighters. It's hard to believe that bright, intelligent, westernised girls want to leave loving families to possibly lead a life of suppression and hardship in a foreign land, far away from what they know and understand. The details are hazy about how this has come to be, but it's been suggested that there are certain websites openly trying to recruit young Muslim girls to be ‘IS wives’. Impressionable girls fantasise about the pin up style pictures of the ‘fighters’ and fall in love with the false notion of them striving for territory and justice. Reports have emerged from one girl who managed to escape the regime, that she was abused and kept as a prisoner in one room.

    This has brought about a kangaroo court of accusations and counter accusations from both sides of the issue, with parents blaming the government for not doing enough and in turn the government batting it back, insisting parents need to be more vigilant and more acute to their teenagers changing behaviour and values. Blaming aside, teachers now see themselves on the frontline themselves, in the prevention of extremism amongst their pupils. Many of us feel the pressure from the government to make a difference but feeling, understandably, out of our depths. Are we able to begin to tackle this deeply entrenched issue? And do we feel totally confident driving certain messages in a politically correct environment where emotions are running high?

    After operation Trojan horse was first introduced by Ofsted, schools have been doing their best with their PSHE curriculums by educating pupils about life in modern Britain in the belief that this will give students a greater sense of identity and patriotism. Ofsted seeking evidence that it's elements are being embedded cross curricular. Politically the government was keen to seen to be tackling the issue head on. But because PSHE is still not compulsory and in some schools doesn't hold the gravitas needed to truly make an impact, it makes the practical task of teaching and challenging radicalisation very hard.

    As PSHE lead in my school, I have done some research about how my school can introduce the topic of extremism, teach pupils about the issue, challenge stereotypes and try to deter extremist views; I can recommend the 'prevent for schools' website, it is excellent. Set up by a team of organisations committed to the issue of stamping out extremism amongst young people, they promote different methods of teaching and learning activities such as theatre group visits and lesson plans. It's also very helpful in explaining safeguarding guidelines and procedures should you ever feel concerned about a particular pupil.

    Perhaps a more unusual method, Humza Arshad is a young Muslim man with his own You Tube channel dedicated to deterring his audience away from extremism. He has over 200,000 followers and the Met have recruited him to talk in schools about his fight. He has the ability to reach young Muslims on their level and speak with a mixture of street credibility and authority- which seems to be a winning approach.

    Looking forward, I suspect teachers will continue to be used as first base in the fight against radicalisation. If IS continue their high profile campaign it's inevitable that there will be ramifications for British born Muslims. With this in mind, I hope the government offers more support to the PSHE curriculum and even go as far to have regional task forces that have the ability to support and provide the clear and direct message needed to make a difference.

    COMING SOON: We are currently developing resources to help tackle this issue in schools, with information for pupils, parents and teachers. ESS members will recieve email updates about these resources as they become available.

    Written by Vicki Dan on September 10, 2015 11:36

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