Denmark has one of the worst radicalization problems in Europe, with more Danes leaving for Syria per capita than in any other European country (besides Brussels).
NPR takes a look at one recent Muslim college student, Sarah (not her real name), who says that the messages of Junes Kock, a member of extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, spoke to her. In a popular online video Kock says, “No Muslim can live in Denmark without being accused of being a terrorist. And the struggle is getting harder, Muslims are trying to keep their faith, but politicians are fighting against us, they claim this is part of the battle against terrorism.”
Although Sarah was born in Denmark and speaks perfect Danish, she is also of Somali descent and often felt alienated. “They want us to mix the Danish and Muslims together,” she tells NPR. “They say that we shouldn’t wear our traditional clothes, and we should take off our scarves and we should be more like a Dane.”
As NPR reports, “Sarah’s story provides a window into how young Muslims in Denmark can fall in with radical Islamists. People like Junes Kock tap into insecurities young Muslims feel as they try to find their place not only in the world, but in Western society more generally. And studies show that local Islamist groups act like a gateway drug for young Muslims: while they may not overtly send followers to Syria, by stoking a young Muslim’s disaffection, it doesn’t take much for an ISIS recruiter to convince someone that ISIS might offer a solution.”
Somali mothers have taken matters into their own hands and started an organization called Sahan with a unique tactic – a mother’s intuition (as no one knows the nuances and changes of a child’s behavior better than one’s mother).
The group was co-founded by Ayan Muumin, a Somali mother, who has helped pivot the organization to activism. 24 hour hotlines help track down missing children, and the group instills cooperation with the local authorities. When a child goes missing, Sahan contacts social services, and when the child is found, they are immediately returned home and not questioned by police. The child feels safe at home and eventually confesses to what they’ve done – whether it’s gangs, drugs or ISIS. Which, according to NPR, “is what [makes] Sahan so special. It is harnessing maternal instincts and wielding them against Islamist recruiters, which is essentially what happened in Sarah’s case.”