How Islamists “Recruit” Children Into Jihad
A small girl, used by the terrorist group Boko Haram, blew herself up in the middle of a crowded park in northern Cameroon, killing at least 15 people last Friday — five children between the ages of three to 14 were among the victims, according to UNICEF.
While it is unclear if the young girl voluntarily blew herself up or was forced by Boko Haram, the phenomenon of children jihadists is not.
In fact, the Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) recently released by its news platform, Amaq agency, that shows a Christian man being executed by an Islamic State child “soldier” in Borno, Nigeria. According to Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a member of the editorial board of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism based in the Hague, said the “kid is about 10.”
How can this be?
Apparently, as explained in a 2016 report on the Islamic State, ISIS and other jihadists use Nazi regime tactics to indoctrinate children.
“The organization focuses a large number of its efforts on indoctrinating children through an extremism-based education curriculum, and fostering them to become future terrorists. The current generation of fighters sees these children as better and more lethal fighters than themselves, because rather than being converted into radical ideologies they have been indoctrinated into these extreme values from birth, or a very young age,” researchers for Quilliam, a London-based counter-extremism think tank, stated in the report, according to the Guardian.
In 2019, the Clarion Project In 2019, the Clarion Project produced a Kids: Chasing Paradise showing how Islamic terrorist organizations and radicalized parents train. young children to commit murder and suicide, which is largely ignored in the West.
Click below to view trailer. WARNING – Viewer discretion advised
Colonel Timothy Antiga, a spokesman for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), said that the recruitment of child soldiers “is the latest in a retinue of brutal and inhuman tactics deployed by Boko Haram” since it began its insurgency a decade ago. Boko Haram has been fighting to create an Islamic caliphate based in Nigeria.
As reported by Voice of America, this July, the United Nations Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict presented a report to the U.N. Security Council in which it described “gruesome violations against children” in Nigeria’s northeast, Boko Haram’s main stronghold, and other countries where the militant group has an active presence.
“The children of Nigeria and neighboring countries continued to endure horrendous violations by Boko Haram, and the expansion of the group’s activities across the Lake Chad Basin region is a serious concern for the secretary-general,” said Virginia Gamba, the special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict.
According to the report, which documented violations between January 2017 and December 2019, the recruitment and use of children accounted for the greatest number of verified violations, with a total of 3,601 boys and girls affected.
John Campbell, a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, says while Boko Haram has been using children between the ages of 5 and 8, the militant group has also relied on older children whose families have been killed during the conflict.
“The small children are being used as suicide bombers and having absolutely no idea whatsoever what is going on,” he told VOA, “but if you take older children, 13, 14 and 15 years old, particularly girls, as far as we can tell they are very often orphans…. They are very often promised immediate entrance into heaven as martyrs, and their position in this earthly life is pretty terrible.”
While the West and NGOs contend that they can conquer Islamist terror with arms, they fail to get at the root of the problem: the ideology that continues to be indoctrinated in the youth, as with the Almajiri boys in Nigeria.
“And whoever emigrates for the cause of Allah will find on the earth many [alternative] locations and abundance. And whoever leaves his home as an emigrant to Allah and His Messenger and then death overtakes him—his reward has already become incumbent upon Allah.” — Sura 4, 100
For many families, the Almajiri educational system offers an alternative to sending their children to a state school which costs money. Most of the religious schools provide free tuition. But the Almajiri pupils have to take care of their own daily needs, which is why many of them go begging when they do not have to be in the classroom.
According to the National Council for the Welfare of Destitute report in 2017, approximately seven million Almajiri roam the streets of northern Nigeria every day. Many of them concede to the strongest wind that blows: street violence, child trafficking, diseases, or hunger.
The challenge to all this is that there is no strategy on how to deal with these children whose indoctrination, at least for some of them, began at birth with inculcation of Islamic doctrine and memorization of passages from the Quran, the violent ones in particular:
“And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them and capture them and besiege them and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.” — Sura 9, 5.
They are seen as purer than adult fighters because they have never been exposed to Western values and therefore have a superior understanding of Islam.
As New York Times international correspondent Vivian Yeeany said, many of these children were barely school age when their parents took them to the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria [or were abducted by Boko Haram]. Thousands of others were born there.
“What have these kids done?” said Fabrizio Carboni, a Red Cross official, after witnessing the misery surrounding him on a recent visit to al-Hol camp in Syria. “Nothing.”
Yet even when it comes to the children, the foreign governments whose citizens are marooned in the camps and prisons have struggled with what to do with them.
Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University. He is also author of Islam: Religion of Peace? – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.