There is no single pathway to Radicalization
Recently the Karachi University made headlines when one of its former students was suspected to be the master mind of the attack carried out on Khawaza Izharul Haq. This unfortunate incident has once again shifted the attention of many towards the fact that radicalization and violent extremism just like cancer is capable of growing fast if left unchecked. However the incidents showing the involvement of students in violent extremism suggest that there are other contributing factors to radicalization and extremism besides poverty. With the growing incidents of global terrorism experts are of the view that there is no single pathway to radicalization. Therefore there can be multiple factors involved in leading people to the path of radicalization and violent extremism. There are examples indicating that young people from impoverished societies were compelled to adopt the path of violence owing to their experiences of violence and conflicts. However there are incidents suggesting that people from well-off background can give up their luxurious lives perceiving violence to be only means of attaining justice. It has long been debated that illiterate people are more susceptible to radical views promoting hateful ideologies. However the involvement of students in the terrorism industry suggests that even qualified individuals are also vulnerable. It is important to realize that stopping the spread of radical views is difficult as students with impressionable minds have the tendency to draw influences from hateful ideologies. Unfortunately the term acquiring education has reduced to the notion of collecting a degree from a reputed institute. One of the many advantages of acquiring education is that it helps in the development of an enlightened mind capable of choosing between right and wrong. For instance, a young student may easily get influenced by his university professors in case he promotes hateful doctrine. In light of the recent Karachi University incident one may think that there are certain elements in the academia that support ideologies of violence and hate. Dealing with the issue of radicalization is of paramount importance as it is one of the biggest threats faced by our society.
Recent reports suggest that terrorists since 2010 have adopted a new strategy of recruiting educated university students. Furthermore in September 2013 nine Al-Qaeda suspects and recruiters were arrested from Punjab University hostel. The changing dynamics of terrorism suggest that terrorist organizations want to capitalize on educated people in order to make use of rapid technological advances. The terrorism industry has become more sophisticated and complex over the past many years. Unfortunately the terrorist organizations have cleverly used modern technology such as social media to expand their network. It is obvious that now the world is facing threat from a new generation of computer savvy terrorists who make use of technological advances to entice youngsters with radical views. Resultantly many young people from well-off backgrounds have opted to join terrorist networks. There are incidents reporting how many young people in the western countries chose to give up their comfortable lives and left for Syria. These recent developments have changed the notion that only the poor and illiterate are vulnerable to extremist views.
One of the most difficult questions that need to be answered is why some students end up adopting radical views of violent extremism? It has been witnessed that extremist use incidents of violence and injustice in different parts of the world as a pretext to motivate young people to adopt violent extremism. Therefore it seems convincing that a youngster having a privileged life might get motivated to fight injustice following the path of violence expecting an eternal reward. A Pakistani journalist Hassan Abdullah shared his encounter with the recruiter of a terrorist organization enticing him to join the organization in a CBS New story. According to Abdullah he was not approached because he had radical views but because the terrorist were well aware that he being a journalist would prove useful to them. Furthermore it is obvious that terrorist networks need skillful and sophisticated people in order to make a strong hold in the society.
Even university students are susceptible of transforming their thinking provided that they spend quality time in the company of people fostering radical views. One such example is Saad Aziz a well- educated individual accused of the Sarforsa Carnage. What caused a shift in Aziz’s personality was his introduction to a seminary by his friend which promoted the idea that violence was the only solution to injustice. Azfar Ishrat Alias an engineering graduate from Sir Syed University of Education and Technology was also influenced in becoming a terrorist.
What can stop youngsters from being radicalized? The answer is that the society at large has to play its role as no single individual can stop the spread of hateful ideologies. The government, the interior ministry, the education sector, the civil society all need to put together a joint effort. More and more seminars should be conducted to create awareness amongst the youth. Pakistan’s educated urban populace is one of the biggest assets of the country therefore it is essential to stop students from drifting away to extremism.
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