Isil trawls social media for Irish jihadi brides
Published 05/07/2015 | 02:30
Young Irish Muslims are not immune to becoming a "jihadi bride", according to a leading academic.
As large numbers of young women are lured from Europe to join the Islamic State militant group, concerns are growing that Irish teens face the same dangers of being duped online.
Dr Maura Conway, a senior lecturer in international security at the School of Law and Government in Dublin City University, says it's vital the Government and parents recognise the threat.
And the Irish Muslim community has also raised concerns over access to online extremism.
"Islamic State (Isil) is increasingly reaching out so literally any young person, anywhere, could be influenced by their message," Dr Conway told the Sunday Independent.
"I don't think people should be panicked and we don't want to over-hype things, but it's certainly not impossible," she said.
Immersion in violent jihadi footage online can coax young people into travelling to Syria to join the conflict and encourage young women and girls to become 'jihadi brides'.
Interacting with visceral content can also brainwash youths into carrying out attacks in their home countries - whether it's Europe or elsewhere.
"The internet is playing a significant part in violent radicalisation. It seems like some jihadi brides in the UK have been influenced by online content consumption and interaction," said Dr Conway, who is also the co-ordinator of a project called Vox-Pol - focused on researching the impacts of violent online political extremism.
Despite efforts from governments and social media companies to remove harmful content, Dr Conway says it's very difficult to restrict access entirely.
"There are very significant free-speech issues. People are entitled to different views," she said, adding that a lack of western journalists in Syria has contributed to an "upshot" in violent content.
Although policy makers and families appear most concerned about young Muslims, Dr Conway said people of other faiths are converting under the influence of Isil as opposed to Islam. Last week, parents from Ireland's Muslim community called for "tougher restrictions" on access to Islamaphobic content, including beheadings, shootings and mass executions. Fardus Sultan, a Muslim mother and business woman said: "Muslims have an added concern with extremism online. We still face the same issues as all parents but nowadays we have that element as well."
"We have to be very vigilant about access, whether it's pornography, paedophilia or terrorism," she said adding excessive use of the internet is "greatly discouraged" by Islamic faith and tradition.
Ms Sultan encourages more responsibility from the Government to ensure all parents are "clued in" to the darker side of the web. However, she stressed that the community is not greatly concerned about their children being lured out of the country.
"Irish Muslims are so well integrated, it's only when things like this emerge that suddenly you have people worrying, but in effect, Irish Muslims, both young and old, are part of the Irish society," she said.
Trinity College lecturer Dr Ali Selim, one of the most senior Muslim clerics in Ireland, is also confident that Isil "would not be attracted" to Muslims in Ireland because of our neutrality.
"Ireland is not involved in any war in any part of the world, and as a result of that, Ireland has a very neutral attitude regarding the international issue," he said. "Islamophobia cannot flourish unless there is an unhealthy attitude that allows it to flourish, and I don't think that will take place in Ireland at all," he said.
However, the Muslim community is frustrated by some "misrepresentations" of their faith in the media and Isil claims that the devastating terror attack in Tunisia, in which 38 people were killed, was carried out "in the name of Islam".
"We are in the holy month of Ramadan and we are trying to get closer to God and being good towards each other, and for someone to carry out those atrocities in the name of Islam, is horrific," said Ms Sultan. "I feel like I have to apologise for someone else's actions, but I actually don't want to apologise because I don't recognise him as someone who is like me, so I keep saying 'it's not in our name, it's not in our faith'," she said.