One finds it difficult to understand how a person can easily abandon the way of life they were brought up by their parents and suddenly embrace a totally different view and approach to living. The 21st century is a time engulfed with so much of such changes where many young people are getting exposed to ideas that brainwash them and through such, they end up adopting strange behaviours.
When Hassan was nineteen years old and a college student, he suddenly became vulnerable to three young men in his school who always looked for him to be part of their company unaware that they were members of an extremist cult that ascribed to a deity. Within a short time, Hassan had unknowingly undergone a total and radical personality change where his beliefs, language, values, and code of behaviour took a completely different turn, and he was no longer the person he was known to be. He had been indoctrinated to a completely foreign set of beliefs that ended up affecting his studies. The rules of the cult demanded that he becomes deceptive, drop out of school, cut off contact with family and friends as well as abandoning his passion in composing and writing songs.
Hassan and his friends went on in the activities of the cult where they could regularly hold black-red adorned late-night vigils in their cult leader’s room which was part of the school’s hostel.
Lucky for Hassan, fate had it that he was never going to be stuck in the deceptive ways forever as Oyoo his classmate who was also his ‘homie’ noticed his sudden character change of not attending lessons and he secretly started looking for him. Upon finding him and realising the changes in character, Oyoo made up his mind never to let his friend join his cultic friends but instead talked to him and constantly followed upon him to ensure that he attends classes.
Despite the difficulties Hassan experienced trying to go back to his former ways among them threats from the extremist group, through counselling from Oyoo and other classmates as well as being in the company of Oyoo always, he was able to bounce back to his senses and together they started a counselling program in the school where they could address matters pertaining youth vulnerability.
The world we live in currently has so much influence on the young generations through social media, schools, friends and even books which leads to either good or sometimes ruin if not closely monitored.
Hassan’s experiences with the extremist cult bring to light the fact that the phenomenon of dangerous people and organizations using undue influence techniques to recruit and indoctrinate young people is real and has reached epidemic proportions hence the need to be investigated keenly.
While so much focus on matters radicalization has for long been on the victim, little attention has been given to the actual techniques and behavioural methods that are used subjugate a person into new ‘identity’ which is dependent to their master.
The use of phobia indoctrination, as an emotional technique, entails the inculcation of irrational fears to question the authority, leadership, or doctrine as it results in terrifying negative consequences. Most violent extremist gangs will for instance use threats such as: going to Hell if one fails to commit acts of violence while giving promises of going to heaven and acquiring 72 virgins to those that live by the group’s standards of killing those that do not ascribe to their beliefs.
Violent extremist cults such as ISIS, Boko Haram, Daesh and Al Shabaab that delight in committing extremely violent acts of violence such as bombings, shootings, beheadings, rapes, and executions always apply the phobia indoctrination approach which exerts a powerful mind control approach to threaten new members.
The youth ought to be careful while surfing the internet as radicalizers are also taking advantage of technology by penetrating social media platforms in a bid to recruit and indoctrinate people to become terrorists. The fact that many young people spend much of their time on social media, makes them prone to being recruited by watching violent content which in turn creates an illusion in one’s mind that they are heroes and would wish to engage in similar violent acts. Online influence also entails human traffickers whose agenda is to oppress people.
Recruiters will always encourage young recruits not to share with anyone especially friends matter concerning the radical influence they have encountered.
One effective focus when addressing violent extremist influences should be on the psychology of mind control and brainwashing as this may help people become critical thinkers and good consumers not to be easily swayed by negative influencers.
There is a great need to educate young people and the public about how extremist groups recruit and indoctrinate people into radical behaviours and further give them ways to identify and protect themselves. This way, we can certainly slow the growth of destructive cult recruitment. Furthermore, families and friends of individuals who have been recruited into cult need to understand what has happened and be guided on the best way to overcome.