Study: East African converts to Islam are recruitment targets by extremist groups

Source: Religion News Service

BY Fredrick Nzwili

NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Christians who convert to Islam in East African countries often become targets for recruitment by extremist groups such as the Islamic State and al-Shabab, the al-Qaida affiliate in East Africa.

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Such is one finding in a June report from PeaceTech Lab, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit that works to reduce violent conflict using technology. The report comes at a time when governments and religious leaders in East Africa are increasingly concerned about Islamic radicalization in a region that includes Somalia and the Kenyan coast.

The finding is based on research conducted from May to July 2017 examining how violent extremist groups use hate speech on social media and online messaging to recruit youth. The 100 participants came from various backgrounds, including ranks of the unemployed, as well as students and mosque attendees. Survey questions probed participants’ relationship to hate speech and social media habits.

“Efforts to counter violent extremist recruitment have to start with an understanding of the narratives and terminology driving radicalization,” said Caleb Gichuhi, a senior specialist at PeaceTech Lab. “When we understand how recruitment unfolds, we can develop alternatives.”

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