State report highlights strategies to fight radicalization of MN youth

For the first time, the state of Minnesota will attempt to combat radicalization with a new grant program.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety intends to distribute $250,000 in grants to entities who will work to combat terrorism recruitment. The state Legislature approved the funds last year.

In a report to lawmakers released Monday, the DPS outlined key strategies that may succeed in Minnesota to prevent youth from falling for tactics used by violent extremist groups such as ISIS.

According to the Task Force on Combating Terrorist and Foreign Fighter Travel, more than 25,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria and Iraq between 2011 and 2015 with 58 originating from the United States. The task force also estimates 15 of them were recruits from Minnesota.

The DPS said it would look at proposals from "culturally specific organizations" that work with youth, especially those that have "non-traditional approaches." The report said priority will be given to those with long-term investments in communities at risk of terrorist recruitment.

"Communities should target those conditions conducive to radicalization that it can influence poor self-image, lack of identity and belonging, individual expectations of life and of the community, and individual attitudes," the report said.

The report also recommends new programs train community members to recognize more signs of at-risk youth, like those who feel disenfranchised. Another effective counter-radicalization method would be to negate potential recruitment propaganda on social media by "developing and promoting their own alternative narratives and counter-narratives," the report said.

Mohamud Noor, executive director of the Confederation of Somali Community, said Minnesota currently doesn't have enough resources to help youth. But he worries some new programs could quickly judge Somali youth and label them as potential recruits.

"What's the profile of a kid who's been radicalized?" Noor said. "That's something we have to pay really close attention to because there is no profile."

The DPS reviewed federal programs like combating violent extremism (CVE) and local efforts spearheaded by Minnesota U.S. Attorney Andy Luger in preparation for the report. It also cited research, academic literature and international approaches to come up with the strategies.

In December, Minneapolis-based Youthprise announced how it will determine which groups share in $400,000 for anti-radicalization efforts. Youthprise is part of a program championed by Lugar with funding from federal and private sources.

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