College students are heading back to the dorms and lecture halls. They are adjusting to life away from home and finding a new identity for themselves. While it may seem far-fetched, for some that makes them the perfect target for something sinister and it's happening more than you think. FOX25 investigates the way ISIS is recruiting on campus.
A mother's plea
Nineteen year old Mohammed Hamzah Khan is accused of trying to support ISIS and is facing serious terror charges.
His mother, Zarine, has a public plea to the terror group to stop recruiting children:
"Without the internet, without social media this would never had happened and my son would not be in this situation he is in today.
Leave our children alone. Please. That's my only message. Just stop recruiting these children. They're too young they don't know what's going on . They're vulnerable. Their thinking skills have not completely developed and these people are preying on that"
ISIS Recruitment tactics and social media
ISIS is changing it's recruitment tactics. Experts say propaganda videos are less bloody and produced professionally.
Social media is a high priority and they're taking online communication to the next level to catch the eye of college students.
The number of websites, forums, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages that belong to ISIS and other similar organizations have increased .
Professor Dana Janbek of Lasell College studies global terrorism and new media. She says the online magazine ISIS publishes is an example of how the terror group is trying to get their message across by seeming more legitimate in an attempt at luring young people with higher skill sets. Janbek says the magazine includes current events, making it relevant and it is professionally written.
ISIS recruiting college students
Professor Dana Janbek tells FOX25 that even though ISIS is viewed as a extremist terror organization, they see themselves as a legitimate government and they are aiming high when recruiting college students. They rely on people with different backgrounds and different skill sets including students and professionals who have a medical backgrounds.
U.S. Government concerns
The U.S. Government is funding studies dedicated to learning more about how ISIS recruits. Professor John Horgan of Georgia State University says the ISIS recruitment strategies are highly sophisticated.
"They custom make their recruitment strategies. If you're an English speaking, North American, that's the kind of person they will use to pull you in. If you're a 15-year-old English girl, they'll find another English speaking girl to try to lure you in."
Experts tell FOX25 there are warning signs to look for if you fear a college student is becoming radicalized:
- They are speaking in ideological terms
- They are dressing differently
- Religious beliefs are becoming more extreme
- They are becoming isolated and withdrawn
However, the challenge is this this kind of behavior is not unusual for teenagers and college students.
Research that is sponsored by the Department of Justice is showing that it is not so much the parents, teachers, councilors of students that are best positioned to identify those changes. It's actually the friends of those children and young students that are best positioned to report red flags. Professor Horgan is researching why changes in young peoples' behavior is not being reported to authorities.
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