After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Farah Pandith worked in the Bush and Obama administrations as they tried to combat violent Islamist extremism. Starting in 2009, as the State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, she began meeting with Muslim youths in almost 100 countries.
In her estimation, the United States is not doing enough to prevent Millennials and members of Generation Z from being recruited by extremist groups.
Yes, ISIS lost the territory it held in Iraq and Syria. According to her research, however, the percentage of the roughly 1 billion Muslims under the age of 30 who find appeal in extremist ideology has not been similarly diminished. Even a very tiny sliver of a group that big can cause a lot of death globally—as can the tiny, radicalized sliver of white-supremacist extremists who’ve killed more people on American soil since 9/11 than Islamist extremists.
A lot of that death could be avoided, Pandith argued this week at the Aspen Ideas Festival, if the need to counter extremist recruiters was treated as a bigger, more urgent priority, and if those working on the problem better understood how to succeed.
Right after 9/11, the United States was focused, she said, on questions such as: Why do they hate us? What about the West is not making them welcome? Is showing that we love and respect Islam the solution?