Obama Administration Looks To Community-Led Program To Stop Homegrown Radicals

 CBS News | October 23, 2014

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – A new program by the Obama administration is being created to stop homegrown radicals.

CBS News reported that the program is being modeled after the International Cultural Center, a community-led program in Maryland that fights violent extremism.

“It’s a lot harder today to identify folks who are being radicalized because you can do it in the privacy of your own home right in your room and nobody’s around,” Montgomery County, Maryland, police chief Tom Manger told CBS News.

Manger added that what’s inspired online, a lone wolf terrorist, worries him the most.

“More often than not it’s a U.S. citizen that is engaged in the activity,” he said.

Now, the police department is getting help from Hedieh Mirahmadi. She trains parents, principals and pastors to intervene when a young person is heading down the wrong track.

“It’s about using your influence as trusted adults to help somebody before they choose a path of violence,” Mirahmadi told CBS News.

Mirahmadi believes that a community-led program is needed to fight radicalization since many Muslims fear being profiled and don’t trust law enforcement. She said there are certain signs that can raise a red flag so her goal is to keep the young and vulnerable from being recruited.

“Not participating in sports or social activities, extreme isolation or exclusion from mainstream society coupled with a very militant or combative interpretation of religious ideology,” Mirahmadi said.

She added that risk factors include political grievances, recent conversion to Islam and mental illness. Mirahmadi shows community leaders how to spot online propaganda, such as jihadi testimonials of Western fighters promising wives, money and glory of war.

But she stated that the most difficult ones to counter are the videos produced from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. They’re often disguised as humanitarian appeals.

“That’s a powerful motivator because it appeals to a sense of justice and a sense of helping the downtrodden or the oppressed,” Mirahmadi explained. “That makes it a lot harder than trying to convince somebody that you know a disgusting act of terrorism is bad.”

The Justice Department has launched a similar project to Mirahmadi’s which is now reaching out to community leaders.

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