Parents must be alert to signs of extremist ideology
PUTRAJAYA: Parents have an important part to play in ensuring that their children do not get enticed by extremist ideologies.
Worryingly, 108 out of 118 individuals convicted for terror-related offences as of April 18 are between the ages of 15 and 40.
According to new research on youth involvement in extremism and radicalisation led by the Institute for Youth Research Malaysia (Iyres), there are certain personality traits that may make a youth vulnerable to radicalisation.
Based on the psychological profiles developed from interviews with 39 individuals convicted of terror-related activities between ages 15 and 40, one recurring characteristic is a distant relationship between the at-risk individual and their parents.
“As a parent, we must build close relationships with our children and find out what their interests are,” Iyres CEO Dr Zainah Shariff told The Star Online on Tuesday.
Zainah explained that if their son or daughter spends a lot of time on social media, parents should try to find out what materials they are reading online, what blogs they visit and who they regularly chat with.
“If there is a pattern where the son or daughter spends a lot of time in their room and does not often come out, we have to be attentive to what they are reading. This is because their reading materials and the things they search on Google show us what their interest is at the moment,” she said.
She advised parents to gain knowledge on the dangers of extremist ideologies so that they can be more aware if their child has been in contact with suspicious people or materials.
“Sometimes, parents may not even recognise the Islamic State (IS) logo. If an informed parent enters their child’s room and sees a suspicious flag hanging, they will be able to tell if it is a IS flag or not. They will also be able to tell if a certain book propagates IS ideology,” she said.
If a parent suspects that their child may be involved in militant-related activity, Zainah advised them to first approach the child to discuss the matter.
However, if the situation proves too difficult to manage, parents can look to the authorities for help.
“As a parent, the first course of action is to communicate nicely and have a heart-to-heart conversation with your son or daughter.
“But if you feel that you are unable to handle the matter, you can refer to the authorities. The authorities will not immediately arrest your son or daughter – instead, there is a counselling process.
“Normally, there is a series of rehabilitation processes to change the perception of that individual towards extremism,” she said.
“As this involves ideology and belief, you cannot immediately tell at-risk youths ‘This is wrong, you cannot do this.’ You have to slowly change their perspective,” she added.
Zainah said it is best if counsellors assigned to at-risk youths are not too much older; it would be easier for them to relate to younger counsellors.
Among the agencies or organisations that youngsters can be referred to for counselling and guidance are the police Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division (+603 2266 2222) or the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim).