Is it Osama Bin Laden, making a solitary call to Jihad in a fuzzy video hastily created from somewhere in the northern part of Pakistan?
Is it a young man, with a bomb strapped to his chest and religious fervor blazing in his eyes?
Or is it President Ahmadinejad of Iran, calmly denouncing Israel and threatening its existence, as well as our own?
All of these faces of terrorism present a unique reflection of a deadly reality, each necessary for a full understanding of terrorism’s violent nature, and yet the picture they present is not complete. For the face of terrorism must include not only its present but also its tragic and deadly future, as we see it evolving throughout the Middle East.
As only one small example, it was there on the streets of Karachi that 5,000 Pakistani children marched in lockstep with the ideology of hate that has immersed them for all of their young lives, protesting the Danish cartoons. With many in school uniforms, released early from their lessons for this important event, they chanted “Hang those who insulted the prophet” while burning a coffin draped in the American, Danish, and Israeli flags. Official Pakistani police quietly watched as the children, ages 8 through 12, demonstrated against their government’s allies and in defense of intolerance.
In order to solidify their grasp upon society, the leaders of radical Islamist movements have willingly corrupted the young minds of their most vulnerable citizens. This particular protest was organized by Jemaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamic group in Pakistan and a member of a coalition of six radical political parties. The coalition was an outspoken opponent of the cartoons published by a Danish newspaper and demanded that the European Union take affirmative steps to prevent another such incident. The children’s protest was only one in a series of demonstrations against the cartoons organized by the coalition.
It is nearly impossible for most Americans to understand the nature of such an event. While our children study math, geography, and science, the children of Pakistan, and others throughout the Middle East, are attending madrassahs where the curriculum combines the basic elements of education with indoctrination into the depths of extremism. At an age where young Americans are looking forward to football games and driver’s licenses or homecoming, the graduates of these schools take up arms against Western soldiers and secular governments.
According to a World Bank report, since the 9/11 attacks, Pakistani madrassahs account for anywhere from 1 to 33 percent of all school enrollments. And such schools, “in Pakistan for example, have produced terrorists in the past; many across the Muslim world currently promote religious intolerance and encourage sectarian violence; and there is ample reason to fear that, in the long run, the fundamentalism emanating from madrassahs in Pakistan and similar Islamic schools elsewhere will eventually threaten Western interests in the region.”
The implications of childhood involvement in fundamentalism for America’s war against terrorism are incalculable. The capture or killing of terrorist leaders will not cleanse the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s young fighters. When radicalism is all they have ever known, they cannot be expected to change their entire belief system in a moment, even at the point of a gun. While concrete behaviors, such as political participation, can be influenced by regime change or democracy building, the ideas that motivate such actions will linger much longer.
The United States should not be surprised, therefore, to see new democracies electing radical governments. It will inevitably take some time for beliefs to catch up to behavior. But there is another problem, at the same time smaller and yet equally dangerous to the American mission. Aware of the American sympathy for children, terrorists are increasingly using young people as distractions for their deadly objectives. American soldiers are immensely capable and courageous individuals, but leveling a gun at a 12-year-old boy with a bomb is something few ever can truly prepare for.
While the children of terror pose unique challenges to American security, the war on terrorism, and democracy building in the Middle East, we must never forget that they too are victims. Every one of the 5,000 children who marched in defiance of liberalism, of tolerance, and of freedom has had the innocent trust of youth stripped away in the name of totalitarianism and hatred.
Despots and ideologues have long known that children are the key to their continued power and preyed upon their willing naivetÃ© to help build tomorrow’s power base. But in this case, hope remains, for when America defeats terrorism to secure its own people, it will also liberate millions of children from a future of intolerance and blind aggression. And that is an outcome that cannot happen too soon. Source:Family Security Matters