Jail term for 14-year-old on terrorism charges. How does ISIS propaganda work on young people?

A 14-year-old Austrian schoolboy was convicted of planning to bomb a Vienna train station. In general, how successful is the jihadi propaganda towards very young people and is the jail term for 14-year old a good way how to counter it? Read few comments.

J. M. Berger, Researcher, Non-resident Fellow with the Brookings Institution, Co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror

ISIS has been very successful at recruiting young people, although it’s not just a propaganda success. They pursue young people through direct engagement online, in a manner similar to how sexual predators function, making friends with them and then steering them in the direction ISIS wants them to go.

A jail term for a 14-year-old isn’t really a counter-messaging tool, but certainly you have to have some kind of response from the legal system if a minor is actively pursuing an act of violence. We haven’t even necessarily figured out the best approaches dealing with ordinary juvenile crime, let alone activity related to terrorism, so I assume there will be an evolving response.

Mathieu Guidère, Writer, Professor, University of Toulouse

Existing studies all show that more than 95% of young people and teenagers, male and female, are radicalized through the Internet and social networks. The jihadi propaganda is very efficient because it uses the common social networks and advanced techniques of mental and emotional manipulation. Young people are sensitive to this propaganda because it uses their usual references and weaknesses. Most of the teenagers are victims of this propaganda and putting them in jail may be counterproductive because it could connect them to other criminal networks much more dangerous and get them more radicalized and trained to violent actions. We need a comprehensive approach to counter the radicalisation of young people and not only a repressive one.

Christoph Günther, Research Associate, University of Leipzig

Unfortunately, we do not possess enough empirical knowledge about the individual motivations of people that are attracted by the Jihadist cause. Hence, we cannot say which part of the Islamic State’s (or other movements of this kind) ideology appeals to them and why it does so. Therefore, while we see young people (among other parts of our societies) being attracted to Jihadist movements, we cannot say how successful they are in terms of recruitment. Some people might look for a chance to flee their ordinary lives, others might be attracted by the chance to exert control over others while some people might think that religious norms, values, and beliefs are imposed in a way that is rightful. In the end: we do not know enough to comprehend an individual’s motivation.

As for your second question: I would argue that those people who are attracted by Jihadist/extremist movements look for different perspectives in their lives. Thus, I do not see that an incarceration can be an appropriate measure in order to counter these individual endeavours and provide different perspectives that make their lives meaningful in the societies they live in.

Benjamin Weinthal, Research Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Austrian security and intelligence agencies are overwhelmed with growing radical Islamism. Counter-terrorism experts outside of Austria view the country as a hub of radical Islam and recruitment of Jihadis. The sad case of an adolescent Jihadi convicted for seeking to blow up a train station in Vienna shows the magnitude of the radical Islam problem.

The country has seen a convergence of three strands of violent, radical Islam. The growing Islamic State problem along with Hamas and Islamic Republic of Iran operatives . Vienna has experience protests where Hamas activity has been praised. By way of background In 2010, Omar al Rawi, a Social Democrat member of the Vienna City Council called for the “continuation of the struggle” of the nine anti-Israel activists killed on the ship Mavi Marmara. Israel had intercepted the ship for its attempt to break a legal naval blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The anti-Israel rally  attracted 10,000 people, including many Islamists, and displayed a sign stating “Hitler wake up.”

Although Austria has anti-hate laws, the police did not crackdown on the incitement against Jews and glorification of Hitler. All of this helps to explain, why Austria has a very lax attitued toward radical Islamists and it does not bode well for the security of its citizens.


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