This coming Sunday marks fifteen years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. On the morning of September 11, 2001 our nation was changed forever. Many lives were lost, and many of us were left in shock and disbelief as we helplessly watched the scenes of horror on our TV screens. We spent the next few days learning that these attacks were committed by a group called Al-Qaeda, led by Osama Bin Laden. This led to invading Afghanistan and the mistake of Bush’s insistence to invade Iraq- which destabilized the region and led to the formation of ISIS.
As soon as I learned a second plane hit the second tower, I knew it was a terrorist attack. I assumed it was Islamist cult members- the same people who had bombed the World Trade Center years earlier. I remember having the same thought I had when I first witnessed the footage of the hundreds of dead bodies at Jonestown: “There but for the grace of God, go I.” For when I was in my former cult, I was trained to believe that we were “Heavenly soldiers” at war with Satan, and we needed to take over the world and install a theocracy led by the “True Parents” (Moon and his second wife). I understand how someone could be convinced to commit an act of terror and sacrifice themselves for a group like Al-Qaeda, ISIS, or any other extremist group.
The type of influence a group exerts over its followers to turn them into agents of death and deny their own natural self-preservation instincts must be absolute. Groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS don’t enlist killers, they manufacture them. Rather than approaching a person to ask them to kill and die for their cause, extremist groups manipulate and control their behaviors, the information they receive, their thinking, and their emotions. A person who is fully controlled in these four ways will have their identities and belief systems completely changed. They can be turned into killers for their “war” against the unbelievers.
This process is not unstoppable or irreversible. I recently shared an article on my social media pages about Jesse Martin, a former follower of jailed British extremist leader Anjem Choudary. Martin himself admits that he was well on his way to being a violent terrorist. In this article, he tells the story of how he was systematically recruited into the group, and how his thinking was molded by them. Fortunately, Martin had doubts and “opened his mind” to what was happening inside the group. He was able to stop his association with Choudary before becoming involved in terrorist activities, and now works with the government providing intelligence and helping to educate the public on the dangers of extremist groups.
Martin’s example shows us that it is possible for a person to recover from the influence of extremist groups. It is my belief that given the correct approach tailored to an individual, most people can be de-radicalized. We all can fight undue influence and help to restore an individual’s ability to think for themselves! I have worked with families who have noticed this type of involvement in loved ones, and through the use of my Strategic Interactive Approach, we have worked together to stop the involvement from becoming tragedy.
Current approaches are severely limited because they are missing the psychological and social influence perspective. To truly help someone and prevent them from rejoining, the focus must be on helping them gain freedom of mind. It is my goal to develop training tools to be widely used by families, friends, as well as religious and law enforcement agencies concerned about citizens with possible terrorist ties. These tools would provide the necessary skills, techniques and information to intervene with a person’s cult involvement before a crime is committed and lives are lost. By looking for certain warning signs and addressing the reality of the recruiting efforts, many would-be terrorists could be redirected and countless lives saved.
If you suspect a family member or friend may be involved in some kind of extremist group I urge you to read my updated books, Combating Cult Mind Control and Freedom of Mind. The 2015 edition of Combating includes new portions addressing terrorism and modern recruitment tactics and tells the story of my friend Masoud who spent 20 years in the Iranian terrorist cult, MeK. For more information on high-control groups please take a look at my website freedomofmind.com. There are a number of links with information on undue influence and a page specifically dealing with terrorist groups. I also have a number of videos on my YouTube page that deal with the topic. By taking notice and speaking up, there may be a chance you could stop an event like the 9/11 attacks from ever happening and save someone you love.