Any parent, carer, teacher or other educator concerned about extremism should be aware of the type of language and behaviour used to influence young people, the subject of this blog.
Children are naturally influenced by things they hear or read online and adolescents can be vulnerable to extremism as they explore ideas about the world and develop their individual identity.
Home Office guidance
The Home Office and Department for Education have released a Briefing Note for schools on How Social Media Is Used to Encourage Travel to Syria and Iraq.
In some cases, children as young as 14 have tried to leave the UK to join ISIL and other terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Under Safeguarding rules, schools and other educational organisations have a responsibility to protect students from the risk of extremism and radicalisation (see our blogs onWhat is ‘Prevent’ and why does it exist?, Prevent & Fundamental British Values and Prevent: Who is vulnerable?).
Terrorist organisations use social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Ask.FM, Instagram and Tumblr to spread information, as well as using popular private messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Kik, SureSpot and Viber to contact vulnerable adolescents.
Language is a powerful tool in influencing behaviour and persuading young people to follow certain causes. Extremist and terrorist groups will use persuasive language to convince individuals to join them.
The Home Office guidance points out that: “ISIL relies heavily on Islamic terminology, and often twists its meaning to reinforce the impression that it is fighting for a religious cause and has established a truly Islamic state.”
For example, a Caliphate (or Khilafah) is a form of government used by early Muslims, under a Caliph, or single leader. ISIL describes the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria as the ‘Caliphate’.
ISIL also claims to be representing the ‘one true Ummah’ – a concept describing the world community of Muslims, bound by common faith.
Terms such as these are used widely in ISIL propaganda and on social media.
Four main themes
According to the Home Office, the four main themes used by ISIL propaganda to influence young people to travel to Syria and Iraq are:
- Celebrating and promoting an image of success – that ISIL are the winning side, when the reality is that ISIL is opposed by the majority in Syria and Iraq
- Portraying the ‘Caliphate’ as an ideal, utopian state, when it has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of Islamic scholars worldwide
- Stating that it is the personal duty of Muslims to support them and travel to the ‘Caliphate’; again most Islamic scholars have refuted this claim
- ISIL portrays itself as the only group able to defend Sunnisfrom outside threats, whereas most Sunnis fear and oppose ISIL
Dealing with concerns
The first step is to follow your school or educational organisation’s safeguarding policies. If necessary you could contact your local authority or police force or dial the non-emergency 101 number. They might suggest a referral to the ‘Channel’ programme.
Call 999 or the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321 if you have any concerns that a child’s life is in immediate danger or that they are planning to travel to Syria or Iraq.
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CMS Vocational Training Ltd can be contacted on 01924 470 477.
Below is a list of local Safeguarding boards you can contact:
Kirklees Safeguarding Board
Wakefield Safeguarding Board
Leeds Safeguarding Board
Bradford Safeguarding Board