According to one expert on Islamic extremism and counterterrorism, potential lone wolf terrorists can be de-radicalized the same way they were initially recruited – online.

Nadia Oweidat, Ph.D., a fellow at New America Foundation, has been in contact with hundreds of former extremists working to change the current narrative promoting the idea the world hates Islam. Oweidat says pouring money into physical force and weapons against radicalized people ultimately won’t help.

“We hear about the online space being a place where people get recruited to terrorist propaganda but it is also the place where they are getting de-radicalized,” she says. “You cannot kill an idea with weapons, with drones, essentially it’s about persuasion.”

In Arab countries, much of the population is young. Approximately 60 percent are under the age of 25 years old and many are active online.

“Arabic speakers are the most engaged online in the world,” Oweidat says. “We don’t have debates in our classrooms, we can’t ask questions, but that debate is taking place on Facebook.”

According to Oweidat, narratives promoted by terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaida are abundant online and tolerated by the government, whereas the views of human rights activists are perceived as threats.

“A lot of these authoritarian regimes is that they do not like human rights. They are more comfortable with people who are extra conservative and even extremists, but they don’t pose as great a threat to the regime as somebody who is championing human rights.”

Oweidat has hope, however. She says she knows of hundreds of former extremists online who want to combat these extremist conservative views via videos and other online content, starting a dialogue with those who could become lone wolf terrorists.

Watch our video to learn more on Oweidat’s perspective on how the United States can combat terrorism propaganda.

Show More

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