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18.11.2015 -

Stop Radicalization - Huffington Post

Article published in The World Post on 18 November 2015.

Paris on 7-9 January - Paris again on 13 November.
In between, the list of terrorist attacks is dark and long in 2015.
This year, we have also seen humanity's cultural heritage attacked and destroyed in Iraq and Syria - we have seen women and men killed, enslaved, and persecuted on the basis of religious and ethnicity.
These are all faces of the same violent extremism.

This threat must be countered, across the world, through stronger cooperation and targeted action.
The threat must also be prevented.Preventing violent extremism means getting at the process of radicalization that transforms a young person into a terrorist.

It means getting at the roots of an ideology of hatred and intolerance that is driven by exclusive visions of the world and identity and fueled by false interpretations of faith. If ever the notion of the war for hearts and minds is meaningful - it is now, and this concerns the hearts and minds of young people, across the world.
Violent extremists are evil masters of the digital era, using every tool at hand to extend their reach, to amplify their voice.

Some 50,000-70,000 twitter accounts support Daesh today, each with an average of one thousand followers.Using supports across the world, Daesh is leading a global social media campaign to take their cause to every computer and mobile phone. This group has issued some 700 videos since mid-2014 and the days of shaky home videos are over. These are high quality productions, multilingual, targeted to specific audiences, exploiting references to major films, video games and music videos
Violent extremists are speaking to young people in a language they understand to spread horrendous messages of violence, hatred and division, and, unfortunately, they are increasingly effective.

Today, the United Nations estimates some 25,000 foreign terrorist fighters, from over 100 States, are active in Syria and Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen.Alarmingly, the numbers are growing.

Foreign terrorist fighters increased 70 percent between mid-2014 and March 2015. Most of young men, aged between 15 and 35 years old, and the terrorist attacks of 13 November show what may happen when some slip through the nets and return to their countries of origin. The point is terrorists are not born - they are created, fueled and radicalized, they are taught to hate and kill in cold blood.

We need to disarm the process of radicalization, to undo the mechanisms of influence that can place young people on the path to violent extremism. We must teach peace.

This requires an overhaul of education - to teach young people the histories and cultures of other societies as their own, to nurture their belonging to humanity as one, to nurture new skills of dialogue across all differences, on the basis of human rights and the equal dignity of every person. We need also to reach young people in ways they understand.

The internet is not a playground - it is a world, where young people roam freely. We need to provide them with maps and with survival skills, to avoid dangers, to assess information critically, to dispel lies, to stand up for human rights and respect. Halting tweets and websites is important but not enough with modern technology -- every young person must be taught media literacy, to become digital citizens and not just digital users.

Countering violent extremism is essential today - we must also act to prevent it from taking root. This must start on the benches of schools and in the digital world.

Follow Irina Bokova on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IrinaBokova

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