Study: 85% of Local Terrorists Exposed to Ideology Through Social Media

KUALA LUMPUR: About 85% of youths convicted of terror-related offences in the country were first exposed to militant ideology through social media.|

 This is the finding of the Institute for Youth Research Malaysia (IYRES) under the Youth and Sports Ministry.

IYRES CEO Dr Zainah Shariff was quoted by The Star as saying that in most instances, these youths had initially wanted to reach out and help those suffering in Syria.

But soon, they became exposed to Islamic militant ideology.

For some, involvement with terrorist groups began with an intention to find a purpose in life.

She said young people with good intentions should seek out other alternatives, such as the humanitarian missions of NGOs recognised by the government, including the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (Mercy) and Islamic Relief Malaysia.

 The research team visited prisons to interview detainees from August to December last year as part of a joint project of IYRES, the youth and sports ministry, the home ministry, police, Prisons Department and the Islamic Develop­ment Department Malaysia (Jakim).

Of the 48 people convicted of terror-related crimes as of August last year, 47 are between 15 and 40 years old.

From its research, IYRES was able to come up with nine recurring character traits that could suggest an individual was vulnerable to extremist ideologies.

They are: low self worth, desire for praise and to be a hero, emotional sensitivity, weak relationship with parents and peers, desire for change in themselves, strong biases and jumping to conclusions, high levels of aggression, impulsive sensation seeking and misinterpretation of religion.

Zainah was quoted as saying it was important for parents and guardians to be aware of their children’s social media activity.

They should, she said, read up on the dangers of extremist ideologies so that they could gauge if there was any contact with suspicious people or materials.

The Star report said if parents suspected militant-related activity, they should talk to their children first. If that doesn’t work, they should contact the authorities who will offer counselling to the youth.