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Daesh At Home! Need For A Comprehensive Social, Religious And Psychological Study Of The Phenomenon

02 August 2016

By Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

WHAT should you do if you suspect that a son, a brother or a cousin is in contact with Daesh (the so-called IS)? How do you know, for sure? Is it enough that he is becoming very religious? Isn't it a stage many of us went through in life? Then what if all your advices and discussions fail to change his mind? Do you just pray for him and wait for age and wisdom to do the job for you? Do you ask for family and friends' help? Go to a religious scholar, a psychologist, an educator, or call the authorities?

Now here's the real challenge: ''If you do report your relative, what guarantees do you have that this is the best option for him? He might be innocent, after all!'' Nuha Mandoura, my Aldana TV hostess, asked. She thought it was a real dilemma for Saudi families to deal with possible terrorists in their midst. They are faced with difficult choices when it comes to dealing with the situation.

I told her that families need awareness, education and training. They are not well prepared. A loving father might explain his son's behavior in a different way than you and I. A mother is blind when it comes to her kids. Parents tend to find excuses, underestimate alarming signs, and prefer soft solutions. With patience and tolerance they have dealt with many issues before. They may think this time it is no different.

''What is the solution, then?'' asked Nuha. I have a proposal. ''We need a national plan, a grand project. First of all, we need a comprehensive social, religious and psychological study of the phenomenon. We should also learn how the Internet, social media and telecommunication are used to influence, direct and recruit the young.

Next, we should train carefully-chosen consultants in religious, educational and psychological matters. Their task is to provide educational material and training courses for families, like those given to engaged and married couples. They should also provide hotline and one-on-one consultation to families with troubled children.

''What if nothing helped? If advice and consultation couldn't change a stubborn mind or bring back a misguided youth?,'' Nuha asked. ''In this case, it is the duty of the consultant to notify the concerned authorities. It is much safer for a son to be in custody than to be for ever lost in terror land,'' I answered.

The alarming signals are many and pretty confusing if you have no or little experience and knowledge as to how to deal with them. The most dangerous are hard to detect. Terrorist organizations today are more sophisticated than before. They may direct their recruits to act normal and fit in, so they wouldn't draw attention.

Still, parents should know their children well enough to notice at least some abnormal changes in their behavior. Armed with good training, they can deal with the problem before it gets out of hand. Sometimes it is a matter of social bitterness, hyper energy, unemployment, wrong company, wrong imam or teacher, obsession with political or religious issues, and so on. These problems are easier to deal with and better to be resolved at an early stage.

In most cases, a smart, compassionate and educated dialogue with our children may go a long way in building bridges and forging trust and friendship that would make it much easier to detect dangers, correct thoughts and change attitudes. You would be surprised how much this kind of productive communication is missing between families and their children.

Aside from the generation gap, many parents are depending too much on schools and religious schooling for the upbringing and education of their young. Being busy is their main excuse for such laziness and over dependence.

The result is this breakdown of understanding and communication channels within families. The vacuum is filled by relationships with the outside world opened up by the Internet and modern communications. The family space is being overtaken by cyberspace, where we have no idea what and who is lurking there, conspiring and scheming to influence, use and abuse our kids.

Crown Prince and Interior Minister Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, always says that a citizen is the No. 1 security officer. He is right. We have to shoulder our responsibility in defending our country, protecting our society and guiding our families. Many terrorists were apprehended and their evil plans foiled as a result of valuable tips from, and good cooperation with, concerned citizens.

To be better prepared for watching out for our youth, we need to be better equipped. Public awareness programs, training courses, free, easily and readily-available consultation for families and parents, based on comprehensive scientific studies, are very much needed.

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be reached at kbatarfi@gmail.com. Follow him at Twitter:@kbatarfi


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