The Abuse of Child Soldiers in Islam
The U. S. State Department on Thursday added Turkey to a list of countries that are implicated in the use of child soldiers over the past year, placing a NATO ally for the first time in such a list — the other countries on the list are Afghanistan, Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen (countries in bold black are predominantly Muslims).
The State Department determined in its 2021 Trafficking in Persons that Turkey was providing “tangible support” to the Sultan Murad Division in Syria, a faction of Syrian opposition that Ankara has long, supported and a group that Washington said recruited and used child soldiers.
Today, the term “child soldier” includes any person
- under 18 years of age who has been compulsorily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces;
- under 15 years of age who has been voluntarily recruited into governmental armed forces, police, or other security forces; or
- under 18 years of age who has been recruited or used in hostilities by armed forces distinct from the armed forces of a state.
Incidentally, girls make up an estimated 10 to 30 percent of child soldiers used for fighting and other purposes.
The Biden administration conveniently omitted the Palestinian Territory from the list despite its two principal terrorist-political administrators in the Gaza Strip, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), recently launching campaigns to recruit thousands of Palestinian children and teenagers to their jihad summer camps.
The goal of the camps, according to Hamas and PIJ, is “to ignite the flame of jihad [holy war] among the generation of liberation, instill Islamic values and prepare the next triumphant army for the liberation of Palestine.” The military camps of Hamas and PIJ “aim to train the young men in shooting and military and security skills,” according to reports from the Gaza Strip. “They also aim to boost their morale and prepare them for the next confrontation [with Israel] that could be close.”
Incidentally, under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the Trump administration left out its Islamic allies Afghanistan, Iraq, and Myanmar as violators of the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, despite the State Department publicly acknowledging that children were being conscripted in those countries. In like manner, in 2018, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo no mention of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia knowing it had deployed Sudanese children in its fight against Houthi forces in Yemen. As evident, Saudi Arabia is still on on the list.
Justification in Islam
The trafficking of children, in this case to fight in the battlefield, is unfortunately nothing new. Such historical exploitation can be seen in the so-called Children’s Crusade of 1212 or Hitler Youth soldiers during World War II. We also know one of the many horrors of the self-proclaimed Islamic State had been (and still is) the sacrifices of child soldiers and their indoctrination to ensure that their jihad endures far into the future. Yet while the Catholic Church and Germany eventually acknowledged the sinfulness of using children to fight in a war, in the Islamic world jihadist refer to certain Islamic religious texts to justify this child abuse.
In fact, Islamic prophet Muhammad accepted young boys to join in to fight in jihad as early as 15 year, though in some cases he welcomed even younger boys like Samara Ibn Jundub and Rafi’ Ibn Khodayj for being at shooting arrows good whom both participated at the Battle of Uhud.
In other instances, the prophet wanted the boys’ parental consent to fight in his jihads. As one can conclude from the following hadith, about a youngster who wanted to fight or in general from a hadith:
I asked Allah’s Messenger: “O Allah’s Messenger! What is the best deed?” He replied: “To offer the prayers at their early stated fixed times.” I asked: “What is next in goodness?” He replied: “To be good and dutiful to your parents.” I further asked: “What is next in goodness?” He replied: “To participate in Jihad in Allah’s Cause.” I did not ask Allah’s Messenger anymore and if I had asked him more, he would have told me more. —Sunan Abu Dawood, Book 20: hadith 30
Click below to view documentary trailer Kids: Chasing Paradise on jihad indoctrination of children
According to another hadith, the Prophet Muhammad also allowed non-Muslim children, or those whom he believed would never submit to his Islam, to be killed:
The Messenger of Allah used not to kill the children, so thou shouldst not kill them unless you could know what Khadir had known about the child he killed, or you could distinguish between a child who would grow up to he a believer (and a child who would grow up to be a non-believer), so that you killed the (prospective) non-believer and left the (prospective) believer aside. —Sahih Muslim, Book 19: hadith 4457
Lack of Reaction from the International Community
Raza, an adviser to the Clarion Project and the founder of Muslims Looking Forward, referring to the Palestinian jihad-summer camps, stated in 2019:
“As a mother and as a Muslim reformer, I see no greater threat to humanity’s potential for peace than the perversion of childhood. Summer camps in Gaza are teaching children as young as 5 how to stab Jews [bolded for emphasis]. Move your finger a few inches on the map and ideological fanatics are exploiting a child’s unconditional ability to love by creating dangerous co-dependency to be deployed later as child soldiers and suicide bombers. The worth of children is not seen in their capacity for growth, but in their ability to comply and bed turned into weapons of war.”
As indicated by the U.S. State Department, the capturing and brainwashing of children for the jihad is an ongoing problem. Prime example, Boko Haram, the Islamic group that has kidnapped, enslaved, beaten, and indoctrinated more tens of thousands of boys, some as young as 5 years of age, and many from Christian backgrounds — into becoming terrorists.
The problem is that the U.S.-led West, which includes the European Union — not to discount Christian leaders — is their absentmindedness to this Islamic phenomenon since they have neglected to establish Islamic studies departments that actually disseminated facts instead of pro-Islamic myths and propaganda.
The price of the modern West’s inability to comprehend Islam’s medieval tactics is not just ignorance concerning the nature of the enemy, but ignorance concerning his victims as well – in this case, countless nameless children. As Mausi Segun, a human rights activist discussing the plight of Boko Haram’s child jihadis put it, “[t]here’s almost an entire generation of boys missing. My guess is that a large majority of them will die in the conflict [as forced jihadis].” And they will die completely unknown in the West — just another victim group to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, lest Islam’s reputation be besmirched.
To quote Islamic expert Raymond Ibrahim:
“The price of the modern West’s inability to comprehend Islam’s medieval tactics is not just ignorance concerning the nature of the enemy, but ignorance concerning his victims as well — in this case, countless nameless children. As Mausi Segun, a human rights activist discussing the plight of Boko Haram’s child jihadis put it, “[t]here’s almost an entire generation of boys missing. My guess is that a large majority of them will die in the conflict [as forced jihadis].” And they will die completely unknown in the West — just another victim group to be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, lest Islam’s reputation be besmirched.”
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.