Muslim youth being radicalized online more than in mosques

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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WASHINGTON — Older Muslims are at a loss as to how the Internet, more than the mosque, is influencing the radicalization of their youth, according to Peter Neumann, the founding director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London.

Neumann, at a New America Foundation panel this week, argued that Muslim extremists considered to be “lone wolves” are “people who are extremely active and extremely social” online.

Socially isolated, lone actors — who are typically thought of as “lone wolves” — are “only a very small minority,” he said.

The current digital divide separates older and younger generations, Neumann said. While lone wolves tend to be very active “in online extremist communities,” the older generations don’t understand the social ties that can be developed with people online.

“But that’s what these people do. They’re hanging out in online extremist forums for 10-12 hours a day, and if you asked them, Who are your best friends,’ they would give you five names of people they’ve never met and whose real names they actually don’t know,” said Neumann.

“And so, the first step towards countering this threat is to recognize that online is also space,” he said.

“And when we’re talking about community engagement, we also need to recognize that we need to engage in that space too. It’s not only the mosque, it’s not only  the physical places, it’s also increasingly the online spaces because the people that we’re concerned about consider these places to be places,” he said.

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