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Islamist Ideology and the Radicalization of Children: What Can Be Done?

  • 214 Massachusetts Avenue Northeast Washington, DC, 20002 United States (map)

Islamist terror networks such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), Boko Haram and al-Shabaab have had consistent success in recruiting local youth. This has helped such groups regenerate their ranks despite a string of military defeats in recent years. An equally troubling modern phenomenon has seen Western children taken by their parents to live under the control of terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. There have also been children born in this territory to Western parents.

As the “Caliphate” collapses, many of these families will be returning to Europe. While there has been significant focus on how governments should respond to the threat posed by the adults, the appropriate approach towards the children – who have been relentlessly exposed to ISIS propaganda – is not nearly as developed.

These challenges present a unique quandary for governments around the world. What should the response be from the international community? How effective has the response been so far? What programs can draw at risk youth away from Islamist ideology? What should the balance be between promoting religious freedom versus human rights more broadly?

Our panel will assess the nature of the threat and suggest appropriate policy responses.