RADICALIZATION THROUGH INTERNET
Media plays a significant role in manipulating public perception and opinion. Media never had such an eminent influence on the lives and behaviours of masses as it has today. Conceding the magnitude of this innovative proclivity, terrorists have also tilted their efforts towards the utilization of modern media technologies to advocate their ideology. Propaganda through media enables terrorists to embark upon a wider audience which is addressed through various means including print, electronic and visual electronic media. Today, terrorists have extensively shifted their focus towards the use of internet to launch their propaganda, fundraising campaigns and recruit the individuals. There are more than 6,000 extremist websites being used around the globe by strayed youth which contain persuasive messages such as “Islam is under attack”, “Jihad is a religious and moral obligation”, “Young Muslims should fight in the defence of Muslim Ummah”, “West is implacably hostile to Muslims” etc.
Most recently, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has set up a page on Facebook with the title of “Umar Media” to recruit enthusiast writers for a quarterly magazine and video editors for the fan-page. TTP spokesperson Ehsan ullah Ehsan confirmed that the faction was using the page to fulfil its requirement before launching its own website which means that TTP is using Facebook as a recruitment centre for its nefarious activities. Such fan-pages and websites are being frequently developed by terrorists around the world in order to keep up the flow of recruits towards their respective militant groups.
In this context, terrorist recruiters on internet hold a prime position in the outfit and perform the major mission of inducting potential terrorists. The recruiter is proficient in assessing human attributions and opts for individuals with particular personality traits and social standings. Taking into consideration a recruiter’s ideal targets, extremely religious-minded individuals having sole aspire of elevating Muslim nation are principally preferred, as it is convenient to exploit their religious association. Personalities having grudges and umbrage for divergent religious school of thoughts entail diminutive effort by the recruiters who widens the already existing fissure amongst different ideological factions and motivate them to combat against contradictory doctrine. People with sense of relative deprivation and frustrated expectations can be opportune victims of terrorists’ manipulation as their antagonism against the state machinery and security agencies can be easily aroused. Individuals who have no legitimate working skills and possess high level of frustration and dissatisfaction are more prone to sadism and serve as ready-made recruits for terrorist organizations. Such like young minds long for social/religious approval and voluntarily present themselves for jihadi activities by considering it their supreme religious obligation to fight against the enemies of Islam.
After selection of potential radicals, their interest in aggression against West and its Muslim allies is cultivated by the terrorist communicator, who is considered to be an excellent orator and a good manipulator. Videos particularly consisting footages of Muslims casualties in the hands of US soldiers are emailed to the potential recruits. Jihadi motivational songs, sermons, fatwas, magazines and books are also made available on these websites to persuade Muslim youth for Jihad. Online discussions provide opportunity to militants to advocate their ideology and serve as platform to motivate others for their moral and material support. Extremists who run these websites have developed ways to identify the most frequent users who are then contacted through e-mails, on a forum, through a chat room or through a voice chat. Potential recruits are invited on online forums where they are further brainwashed for joining the terrorist groups. Resultantly, various young Muslims become pawns in the hands of anti-sate elements, which are actually the by-product of radicalization through internet.
It is strongly felt that the prevailing scenario is posing a grave danger to Muslim youth including those living in Pakistan. Consequently, there is a dire need to devise some proactive measures at tactical, operational and personal levels to save our next generation from becoming radicalized. All segments of society are required to work in collaboration to deny recruitment for terrorist organizations. Renowned religious scholars should be involved to launch anti-extremism campaigns to preach the correct teachings of Islam to shun the radical ideology of terrorists. Anti-extremism campaigns should be financed by international community to prevent youth from accepting radical beliefs. The issue merits serious consideration by all stakeholders of war on terror whereby a collective effort must be made to frame a legislation to proscribe terrorist websites / community pages on internet. In addition, access to the extremists’ propaganda should be denied and countered with appropriate themes to prevent youth from becoming prey to terrorists’ exploitation.