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Friday, October 21, 2016

The last leg on the road to jihad began with a day of ditching school.

Instead of heading to the mall as many truants would, three teenage girls from the suburbs of Denver boarded a flight to Germany. They took their passports and $2,000 in cash swiped from parents. The only clues they left about their whereabouts was a trail of tweets asking friends to pray for them and mentioning plans to fly on to Turkey.

By the time the girls got to Frankfurt, their parents had alerted the authorities, and German police were on hand to send them back to Denver. The girls were returned to their parents, and no charges have been filed, although authorities are still investigating.

The question many are asking — no doubt including the FBI — is how this odyssey began, how these teens, two sisters and a friend from their high school, were recruited to venture across the world to join the “caliphate” established in Syria and Iraq by the jihadist armed group known as the Islamic State.

One expert quoted by the Associated Press said the girls were likely lured by “Disney-like” fantasy tales of new lives in the caliphate. Their seducers likely also preyed on typical teenage anxieties about fitting in with peers.

The Denver Post reported that one of the girls tweeted, “I started to notice the people I called ‘friends’ weren’t my true friends.” In any other context, that plaint would sound like garden-variety teen angst, one of the normal cares and concerns of the age cohort, along with dating and friendship dramas.

It’s likely that this story would have gotten the 24-7 CNN treatment if another terrorist recruit hadn’t upped the ante, with bloodshed. A masked gunman in Canada, a convert to Islam, murdered a solider and then began shooting in the nation’s Parliament in Ottawa. He was shot dead by the Canadian sergeant-at-arms before more people were harmed.

So now Canada found itself where the U.S. has been slowly shifting for several years: fearing its own. An Ottawa coed summed up the new mood in a comment to the Washington Post. “I wonder how this will change things,” said Morgan Bell, 19, a French literature and Canadian studies student. “Tomorrow, it will be a new Canada.”

The three Denver-area teenagers also signal a new reality. And it’s one that has been building for years, darkly aided by the Internet. In September, a Denver 19-year-old woman pleaded guilty to providing material support to al Qaeda and the Islamic State. She also had been heading to Syria to marry a man she met online who said he was fighting with terrorists.

American cities with large East African immigrant communities have also seen their share of young men being recruited to join Islamic extremists.

The FBI has responded. Agents have been trying to establish connections with Somali and Sudanese immigrant leaders, and Muslim communities in general, in the hope that they will alert the agency to such recruiting.

It would be a grave mistake to let these new immigrant communities become more isolated. If authorities show goodwill and build genuinely cooperative relationships with these groups, that will do much to disrupt the power of jihadists to use the Internet to recruit in the U.S.

The most chilling twist in the new cyber jihadism, though, is actually the oldest trick in the book: targeting young girls with the lure of false romance.

The Denver-area girls were two sisters of Somali descent, and their friend is reportedly of Sudanese descent. Authorities do not believe that they had been radicalized. They were simply young and vulnerable.

Anyone who works with teenagers knows that many of them can be easily swayed by malign influence. It’s simply a matter of their development: They’re not fully adult but are no longer children, and therefore are susceptible to notions that make them feel grown up. Budding idealism clouds judgment, and they are prone to take risks without weighing consequences. Those are traits that a lot of teenagers share.

As scary as the outcome could have been for the Denver teens, it’s instructive to remember what stopped them and got them home: intervention by parents and other responsible adults. Their parents grew alarmed and reported them missing. Their classmates reported their tweets to school officials.

Family and friends — the girls’ inner circle — knew to call police. And they did. The saga stopped before they wound up brides to terrorists.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108-1413, or via email at [email protected]

AFP Photo/Lars Hagberg

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • howa4x

    If these girls felt alienation here the allure of adventure to find a true love is powerful. It is not so much as them being radicalized as falling in love. Canada’s story is different since 2 soldiers were murdered by extremists that were radicalized at home. We forget that that the Islam that ISIS practices is an absolute one with no second guessing. so people are drawn to that rigid form of religion, just as young disenchanted whites join white power movements. These groups provide a philosophy that doesn’t require complex thinking and is ready made to swallow whole. These groups also provide a sense of belonging and power in numbers. They make the weak feel strong and give a purpose to an unfulfilled life.
    The only way to counter that is to create a culture where people can feel important enough that they don’t have to resort to murder, or mayhem. Our culture is economic based and divides the population into winners and losers, and that permeates through relationships, work place and sports teams, down to pre K. If some one is branded a loser by the culture they will be more apt to join a movement that turns them into winners no matter how negative the overall goal are.
    We will never stop terrorism until we learn how to become an inclusive society, where people aren’t pushed to the sides or the bottom, and everyone can feel they are part of it. If not we will live with some form of terror for a long time.

    • What you describe is already in practice under the liberal controlled indoctrination in our schools. The liberals have been converting our kids into thinking that everyone is the same. There is no motivation to excel, only to be average. Our schools teach down to the lowest student, because we can’t offend anyone. We can’t have students excel, because there are those that will not. We are producing substandard education for our kids in the name of liberalism.

      • Allan Richardson

        Your straw man is coming apart and blowing away in the wind of reality.

        • How many years have you taught in public schools? I would guess none. My wife had over 30 years in both the parocvhial and public school systems. She got out just in time.

          • BillP

            Dummy your wife should have taught you how to spell, the word is parochial. My wife has taught for over 20 years in a public school and has enjoyed every moment of it.

      • howa4x

        That is spoken like an indoctrinated republican Fox watcher. In the Blue democratic states that you describe as Nanny states have a much higher educational outcomes than red states that funnel money to religious charter schools that teach the bible instead of science. Why is that red states rank at the bottom of the educational pile? Why is it that red states have the lowest economic output and have to take more federal aid than Blue states, because their residents don’t earn enough in taxes to keep the state running?
        It is the red states that are hostile to common Core educational standards that seek to push the educational status of our kids higher not lower. This is why the elite colleges in the country are in Blue states. Do you know why the financial enter of the country is in a Blue state? Because there is more educated talent here. This is why Silicon valley, the center of innovation and the new emerging economy is in Blue California instead of Mobile Alabama. Keep watching FOX so everyone can see how really smart you are!

      • Sand_Cat

        Once again, miles off topic and off base.

    • CPAinNewYork

      “We will never stop terrorism until we learn how to become an inclusive society”

      What a crock! The United States became an economic powerhouse because it glorified individualism and the competitive spirit. The History Channel ran a series titled “The Men Who Built America.” It shows clearly the traits that lead to success. Those traits do not include the mealy-mouthed crap that howa4x wants us to embrace.

      • howa4x

        The united states became a power hose because we allowed those at the top like Rockefeller to murder his workers for unionizing (Ludlow) We did it because we allowed pollution of our water and air, and our CIA to run around the world killing elected officials that wanted a better deal from our companies. The robber barons used child labor and chained them to machines. The mafia sold drugs to the losers and made billions in the process. Did that make us great. If you want to be highly successful here you need to be ruthless and a very uncaring person
        So you think that is what made us great?

        • CPAinNewYork

          It’s what made the United States powerful. If you’re a citizen of the United States, as I am, that’s “great.”

          • howa4x

            Really!!! Is that what you want to be known around the world for? How we will just come into your country and take what we want? Well prepare for endless war then because in a media world no one is going to sit back and take it
            We have less homegrown terrorism because it is easier for a foreign person to fit in, join little league and eat a hot dog
            We won’t have any until we can assure that any kid being born here has the same chance to become something as anyone else

  • Whatmeworry

    Its a shame that the girls rather then buying a NONO for their facial hair decided to join mooslims to blend in

  • CPAinNewYork

    We do not need to know more about our “homegrown jihadists.” There have always been freaks in a large society and now that our large society is becoming more “diversified,” the incidence of freaks in growing.

    The remedy is to get rid of them as soon as their freakiness is observed. A good way to do this is to ban the Muslim religion from the United States.

    Muslims constitute a clear and present danger to the governemnt and steps must be taken to edidicate them.

    • ScotDog

      More afraid of the Christian Fundamentalists than Islamic Jihadists in North America. Especially Republicans!

  • Whatmeworry

    Its not a shame that the girls rather then buying a NONO for their pubic hair decided to join to blend mooslims in

  • ScotDog

    Why are you showing a picture of the Canadian Parliament? No jihadist up there. Just a lone mentally ill man, who happened to believe in Islam. There have been more christian wackos shooting up the joint than Islamic jihadists.