As the world watches the terror attacks in Kenya with horror, The Australian government would be seriously remiss if it ignored a number of salient issues arising out of this tragedy, according to the Director of Cult Consulting Australia, Raphael Aron. Aron is the author of “Cults, Terror and Mind Control.” (Bay Tree publishing California 2009)
Three of the terrorists who attacked the Westgate shopping mall were from the United States and one each was from Canada, Finland and the United Kingdom. "It isn't totally surprising, given the fact that we know Shabaab has recruited in the United States," CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen said Sunday. "We also know they have recruited in a number of European countries."
According to CNN, as early as 2008, the FBI warned that more than a dozen youths - some of them American citizens - had left Minneapolis, home to a large population of Somali immigrants. At least three are believed to have carried out suicide bombings in Somalia. Minneapolis is home to the largest Somali population in the United States. Bihi Abdirizak whose nephew was recruited by the al Qaeda-affiliated terror group Al-Shabaab claims that Al-Shabaab recruiters engaged teens by providing them entertainment and role models and brainwashed them.
The issue of radicalization is not foreign to Australia. In early 2007 Australian Federal Police raided a number of stores in Sydney seizing various materials that appeared to promote terrorism. One such item included a series of pro-terror hate DVDs that urged children to martyr themselves in Islam's war on the West. The film called for the murder of non-believers. In one DVD, the Australian-born radical Sheik Feiz, now in exile in Lebanon, blamed a lack of courage for martyrdom on the battlefield for the "humiliation" of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Guantanamo. The film, one of ten in a series titled The Death Series, urged parents to make their children holy warriors and martyrs, and praises Jihad as the pinnacle of Islam.
In the same year, the head of British Intelligence Services warned that children as young as fifteen were becoming involved in terrorist-related activity. Jonathan Evans, the chief of M15, told a gathering of newspaper editors in Manchester, “As I speak, terrorists are methodically and intentionally targeting young people and children in this country. They are radicalizing, indoctrinating and grooming young vulnerable people to carry out acts of terrorism.”
The issue of brainwashing is of extreme importance as it underlies the means by which terror groups are able to radicalize their recruits. How do young men and women become radicalized and brainwashed to be used as pawns by hidden terrorist masterminds? Could pro-active programs to help avoid this radicalization from taking place?
Closely related to this discussion is the role of the internet. In relation to the Boston bombings in May this year, Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia's security services, said Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the two bombers responsible for the atrocity, was already radicalised before his 2012 trip to Russia. "It looks like he was inspired via the internet.”
According to Gabriel Weimann of the University of Haifa in Israel, in 2006 there were about five thousand terrorist websites that featured recruitment, training, sharing ideology, communication, and propaganda.
Weimann argues that terrorist organizations go looking for recruits rather than waiting for them to present themselves. The SITE Institute, a Washington-based terrorism research group that monitors Al Qaeda’s Internet communications, reports on chilling details of a high-tech recruitment drive launched in 2003 to recruit fighters to travel to Iraq and attack U.S. and coalition forces there. “Potential recruits are bombarded with religious decrees and anti-American propaganda, provided with training manuals on how to be a terrorist, and as they are led through a maze of secret chat rooms, given specific instructions on how to make the journey to Iraq.”
According to Aron, while border protection and intelligence work are crucial elements in the war against terror, much of this work is reactive. “A pro-active approach which involves community initiatives that promote civil engagement and programs which address the alienation and vulnerability created by unemployment are critical. In addition, an understanding of the means by which young people are radicalized may provide an opportunity to put measures in place to counteract this activity and create a more secure and safe world. While this is highly complex issue, there is ample research which supports the need for programs which deal with the dynamics of brainwashing and mind-control as a means by which to avoid radicalization and the dire ramifications of such processes.”