Cultural ‘vacuum’ draws youth to extremist ideals, professor says

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Asslan Khaligh, government and political science professor, expresses his views on the delusion of Muslim youth at the Hot Potato discussion March 31 in the Methodist Student Center. Khaligh spoke on recent news of Muslim youth joining ISIS, saying they "are suppressed and impressionable, looking for something to stand for," but emphasized the need to "educate on a productive, non-violent alternative to radicalism."  Photo by Tress-Marie Landa.

Asslan Khaligh, government and political science professor, expresses his views on the delusion of Muslim youth at the Hot Potato discussion March 31 in the Methodist Student Center. Khaligh spoke on recent news of Muslim youth joining ISIS, saying they “are suppressed and impressionable, looking for something to stand for,” but emphasized the need to “educate on a productive, non-violent alternative to radicalism.” Photo by Tress-Marie Landa.

Hot Potato speaker explores why some young people join ISIS; lecture occurs the same week as U.S. arrests.

By Janelle Polcyn

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

Growing up is hard enough, but Islamic youth of today have a failed culture, ideology and government, a political science professor at this college told about 20 students March 31 during the Hot Potato luncheon at the Methodist Student Center.

Asslan Khaligh explained in his lecture, “The Disillusion of Muslim Youth,” why some young people are joining the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS.

“When I look at the young people, I feel for them, because they are not sure what is going to happen,” Khaligh said. “Muslim youths today, they look at their culture, it has failed; they look at their ideology, it is not acceptable; they look at modernization, it is alien to them. So all these issues creates this vacuum, this little area and they’re looking for something.”

He said ISIS is feeding off of the current generation’s dismal outlook on their future, so the militant group promises cheap living and the opportunity to be successful.

“ISIS has created this romanticism,” Khaligh said. “They are filling this vacuum and telling the youngsters ‘come and join us, go back to the good ol’ days.’ They think that by joining ISIS, they are somebody, they are doing something, they are involved in something.”

He said the governments in many Middle Eastern countries are corrupt and the culture needs a renaissance to keep up with globalization, but sometimes change does not look as good in the beginning.

“When we make progress, it looks like everything is going down the drain, everything is becoming more complicated, everything is becoming more difficult, “Khaligh said. “These youngsters in the Middle East, they are born-again Muslims. They are caught between old values and modern values. They don’t know which way to go. ‘Should I stick with the old-fashioned way of life that my parents had or should I modernize myself in this manner?’”

ISIS has appeared in the news for its beheadings of journalists, aid workers, soldiers and others. The group publicizes these executions by posting graphic videos online.

Khaligh wanted to explore the relatively new aspect of young people leaving their nice homes to join the terrorist group.

“As young people, we’re looking for answers,” Khaligh said. “We’re looking for some way to resolve these things that are uncertain in our brain. Religion is coming back because we have failed socially and politically.”

The Muslim culture has failed Muslims in the Middle East, and the American culture has failed the Muslim population by promising they lived in a “melting pot” of cultures where everyone is equal.

But “now they call it a salad bowl; you see … different parts,” Khaligh said.

“ISIS creates an alternative for them,” Khaligh said. “Today globalization wants to teach us that every country should be the same and we know that is not possible. Isn’t it true that the United States looks different after 9/11, especially to Muslims? Being Muslim these days around the world is not a good thing. Everybody looks at you as suspicious.”

On April 2, two days after the Hot Potato lecture, two New York City women ­­— ages 28 and 31 — were charged with plotting to build a bomb for use in an ISIS-inspired attack, according to CNN.com. The next day, authorities accused a 30-year-old Philadelphia woman of trying to assist the terrorist group, according to Newsweek.

The Hot Potato luncheon aims to present controversial issues that are not often explored and present all of the information so students get to see every angle of current events.

“Ultimately we have to teach our youngsters they have a future,” Khaligh said.

The Rev. Johnny Silva later said 15-25 year olds are responsible for what is popular today and they have more power than they realize.

After each lecture, all attendees receive a free baked potato.

“That’s one of the reasons I come; I don’t buy lunch on Tuesdays,” Khaligh said. “The reason we call them ‘Hot Potato’ is because they’re controversial issues and at the same time, they serve hot potatoes at the end of it.”

The next topic will be legalizing marijuana at 12:15 p.m. April 7 at the center.

For more information, call 210-733-1441.

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