Monday, August 17, 2015

Young Muslim Entrepreneurs Try Countering ISIS Propaganda


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There's no shortage of ISIS propaganda to lure in potential recruits to its cause. But is there enough being done to counter that?

It simply took a social media account for Mohammad Dakhlallah and his wife, Jaelyn Young, to connect with ISIS militants. But they are just two of the many Americans and thousands of people from around the world allegedly lured to ISIS through its real-time propaganda.

"It's no longer the case that someone who is troubled needs to go find this propaganda and motivation," said FBI Director James Comey. "It buzzes in their pocket, so there is a device — almost a devil on their shoulder all day long, saying 'kill, kill kill'!"

The U.S. is taking steps to counter ISIS' lethal message online with tweets and hashtags promoting tolerance and moderation. It even launched the Sawab Center, an initiative aimed at countering ISIS' plans to inspire and execute attacks.

"The vast majority of Muslims in America are very well-adjusted, but there is still an idea of 'Do I belong here?'" said tech entrepreneur Shahed Amanullah. "We believe there is a space for companies to address that need, and we see Muslim entrepreneurs all over the place trying to do that."

One of the companies trying to do that is LaunchGood, a crowd funding site that funds business and humanitarian projects developed by Muslims.

"If we can show our youth how to engage communities and engage the world around them in a healthy productive, positive way, we can counter the effects of ISIS and their ability to steal our youth away," said Chris Blauvelt, who converted to Islam at age 16.

And it seems that targeted media campaign could be just as effective in fighting ISIS' luring appeal to young people.

"To me, those people are the answer," said Rick Stengel, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. "Young Muslim social media entrepreneurs, I'd put my money on them rather than anybody else."

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