By most accounts, El Shafee Elsheikh, the 29-year-old Islamist and member of the so-called ‘Beatles’ terror sect, has been responsible for numerous reprehensible acts. He’s been involved in beheadings, hostage takings, stabbings, shootings, beatings and mock executions.
Elsheikh, described as a ‘wiry, tiny bug of a man’, was recently interviewed, by CNN journalist Nick Paton Walsh, from where he is currently detained by Kurdish fighters in Syria. In this interview, he revealed that there is only one thing that he regrets: letting his four-year-old son watch extremist content online which included a graphic video depicting a Jordanian pilot being burned alive.
In a written account of the encounter, published by CNN, Walsh explains how he felt that Elsheikh came across as a ‘sociopathic idiot’ and ‘not a serious person’. He only saw one glimpse of humanity in the terrorist: “I saw only one moment of apparent genuine emotion in Elshekih’s eyes,” he wrote. “When he regretted letting his four-year-old son see a video of a Jordanian pilot burned alive in a cage by ISIS.”
It’s not easy to agree with someone who has dedicated their life to destroying other people’s, but perhaps even Elsheikh has recognised the consequences of children being exposed to extremist content.
Here at FAST we recognise that, although Daesh’s caliphate is crumbling, the exposure to online extremist content is still out there. This content is not only distressing to watch, it forms part of a wider effort by Daesh recruiters to radicalise our children. As young children have access to more devices than ever, and access to these devices is being granted at a younger age, parents are increasingly losing control over what their children are watching on the internet.
Given the fact that the internet can contain wicked and evil content at the best of times and studies have shown that extremist and terrorist material is readily available to children, it is always a good idea to make sure that we know what our children are doing online. But now, whilst we have recruiters specifically targeting vulnerable societal subsets – such as children – in order to indoctrinate them using their warped interpretation of Islam, it is more important than ever.
It is our duty as parents and guardians to protect our children, our families, from this online threat. FAST has many resources available if you have concerns your child might be affected by anything you’ve read here. Please speak to your child or reach out to someone you trust. You can also contact FAST with any concerns or questions.
Together, we can safeguard our children.