Jihad recruitment; human trafficking; and Jesus as a redhead

Religion news and data in bite-sized nuggets. Because you’re as busy as we are.

  • The trailer for Going Clear, Alex Gibney’s powerful documentary exposing the Scientology cult to daylight, is now online. One of the most talked about films at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the doc will debut on HBO, March 29.

  • Psychic Daniel Perez has been convicted of first-degree premeditated murder in the 2003 drowning of a 26-year-old woman at his commune’s compound near Wichita, Kansas. At the same trial, he was also convicted of 27 other charges: one count, first-degree murder; eight counts, rape; seven counts, aggravated criminal sodomy; three counts, aggravated assault; one count, sexual exploitation of a child; eight counts, making a false information. At his March 24 sentencing, Perez will face, at a minimum, a life sentence without parole eligibility for 25 years.
  • Brusthom Ziamani, a 19-year-old teenager who converted to Islam less than a year ago and idolised the barbaric killers of Fusilier Lee Rigby is facing a lengthy jail term after being found guilty of plotting to behead a British soldier.

    The Guardian says “he first became interested in Islam at the age of 15 through rap music and decided to convert in the months before he was first arrested. He turned to extremists in the Muslim group al-Muhajiroun after being kicked out of his home when when his Jehovah’s Witness parents discovered his newfound religion.”

  • Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, Raffaello Pantucci, says that the Brusthom Ziamani case reflects “a broader trend in radicalisation and terrorism in the UK
  • Alienated Muslim Youth Seek Purpose, Thrills in Joining Jihad, says reporter Joji Sakurai. Youth confronting poverty, unemployment, and social disdain grasp at extremists’ promises of a higher mission. Your life has meaning, the recruiters say — while promising a big reward at the end.

    Sakurai suggests that the process of recruiting potential Jihadists is not much different from that of recruiting drug gang members. The process is the same in Texas (Branch Davidians), Moscow (Neo-nazis), or Japan (Aum Shinrikyo)

    Says Sakurai, “Religious fervor rarely has much to do with what draws people to join such groups. Deep down, it’s about purpose. Belonging. Excitement. A sense of identity. Order amid disorder. A focus for pent-up rage. The profound insight of the jihadi recruitment machine is that the cause can be anything – as long as the needs are satisfied.”

  • Along with the above article, read Muslim Leaders in U.S. Seek to Counteract Extremist Recruiters.

    Imam Suhaib Webb says that in 15 years as an imam he had encountered only five Muslims who were considering whether they should join violent militant groups. “They were all males,” said Imam Webb, and “they all had daddy issues.” He added, “They were not really drawn to this on theological grounds.”

    Humera Khan, the founder of Muflehun, a think tank based in Washington that focuses on countering violent extremism, says that, increasingly, there is no consistent profile of those who are targeted for recruitment or drawn to Islamic extremists.

    “There are no patterns, and that’s making it harder for everyone,” she said in an interview in Virginia late last month. “They can come from every ethnic, socioeconomic group, any geographic area. But they are more often men than women, and they’re getting younger.”

  • Meanwhile, Australia’s top counter-terrorism police officer has expressed concern that a rising number of “cleanskin” jihadis who have radicalised rapidly below the radar of police are slipping overseas to fight with extremists.

    Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner for counter-terrorism Neil Gaughan confirmed that extremists were continuing to leave the country, including increasing numbers of women and younger men. They’re self-radicalising and deciding to go overseas. “We’re seeing young boys radicalised really quickly online and just going.”

  • Do you know the difference between ‘greater Jihad‘ and ‘lesser Jihad‘?
  • Change of pace now: We live in interesting times. How interesting? Consider this headline: French Catholics sue adultery website for encouraging affairs. Yes, it’s a real story.
  • So is this, I guess: There is some speculation as to what color Jesus‘ hair was.

    Did Jesus have red hair?

    Usually people have different questions when it comes to Jesus.

Video Resources on Cults and Related Issues

  • Cult expert Steve Hassan and his team have put together a fantastic research resource for anyone interested in cults, counseling, ex-cult support, and related issues: the Freedom of Mind Resource Center’s YouTube Channel.
    Steve Hassan
    Included are Steve’s interviews with fellow cult experts and mental health professionals. There are also interviews with former Scientologists and other ex-cult members.

    Watch, for instance, Jon Atack discuss the updated edition of his book A Piece of Blue Sky.

    Or enjoy this video (and part 2), in which Hassan sits down with Tory Christman — one of the most courageous, outspoken, and nicest Scientology critics online.

    Christmas was a Scientologist for 30 years. At one point she was directed to do some of the cult’s ‘dirty tricks’ on the Internet: attacking a Usenet discussion group known as Alt.Religion.Scientology. Among other things, Tory describes how a Scientology critic (Andreas Heldal-Lund of Operation Clambake) active in that group helped her realize that she needed to get out of Scientology.

    Here is CNN’s interview with Steve Hassan on ISIS as a cult. You’ll also want to hear Masoud Banisadr (ex-MeK, the People’s Mujahedin of Iran) on treating terrorist groups as cults.

    There’s also a section on human trafficking. You’ll want to watch this panel discussion on Human Trafficking as a Commercial Cult Mind Control Phenomenon which took place as part of the International Cultic Studies Association‘s annual international conference in Washington D.C. last July.

    Working with Rachel Thomas1, Carissa Phelps2, and D’Lita Miller3, Steve Hasssan has helped put together Ending The Game, a revolutionary program for survivors and victims of Human Trafficking.

    Be sure to bookmark this resource. Better yet, subscribe so you receive a YouTube alert whenever new videos are added.

    See also: Freedomofmind.com

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  1. Rachel’s own experience with sex trafficking, coupled with her passion for education, led her and her husband to start Sowers Education Group, an organization purposed to sow seeds of awareness and empowerment to end human trafficking
  2. A licensed attorney, who advocates for victims’ rights. Carissa’s memoir, Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets (Viking 2012), is used by instructors in juvenile detention facilities, as well as professors of social work in graduate level courses. Her organization, Runaway Girl, organizes survivors of human trafficking around resources, networks, businesses, and local efforts to protect and care for survivors and victims within their own communities
  3. Founder of Families Against Sex Trafficking (FAST). D’lita is a community activist, who is well known for her frontline work to pass Prop 35 and highly sought after for her ability to connect with survivors. As a sex trafficking survivor and mother of a survivor, D’lita has made it her life’s mission to help clean up the streets of her hometown, Compton. She also does extensive outreach and lobbying throughout California.

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This post was last updated: Feb. 20, 2015