A Canadian mother’s testimony: the cultic brainwashing tactics of ISIS

NBC Nightly News tonight aired a segment entitled “A Mother’s Warning,” in which a woman from Calgary, Alberta, told the story of her teenage son’s social withdrawal and eventual decision to join ISIS or Islamic State, the terrorist group. He died fighting with ISIS.

Especially telling in the segment was the woman’s characterization of ISIS and how the group lured her son. She used the word “cults” and referenced mind control and brainwashing.

“It’s the same as any cults, gangs, neo-Nazism, any form of extremism,” she said.

She also said she could never imagine her son hurting a flea, much less picking up a gun.

To that statement, the reporter asked, “What happened?”

The mother responded, “They got into his head.”

(The woman was named, but NBC did not display her name on the screen. She now works with other moms to help prevent children from joining terrorist organizations.)

Tonight’s segment reminded me of a report back in September, a report I posted about, in which a Somali-American man in Minneapolis described his nephew’s recruitment by al-Shabaab, another terrorist group.

“He was brainwashed,” the Somali-American man said.

The above-mentioned mom and the Somali-American man saw young male family members leave comparably comfortable Western nations to fight in the Middle East beside terrorists with ancient mentalities. Based on NBC’s reports, the terrorist groups might have reached them through online videos as much or more than through local Muslim gathering spots.

Not long ago, the Nigerian writer and Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka suggested that plenty of radicalization could be happening the old-fashioned way in one powerful Western country.

As Soyinka said back in 2010, “England is a cesspit. England is the breeding ground of fundamentalist Muslims. Its social logic is to allow all religions to preach openly. But this is illogic, because none of the other religions preach apocalyptic violence. And yet England allows it. Remember, that country was the breeding ground for communism, too. Karl Marx did all his work in libraries there.”


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