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Expert to talk on extremist recruiting on social media

by Rachel Muzaic September 8, 2015

J.M. Berger visits Concordia to talk about his book ISIS: State of Terror

Concordia will be the host of a discussion by researcher and religious extremism expert, J.M Berger, on the first day of classes, Sept 8. The event, hosted by the Montreal Institute for Genocidal Studies (MIGS), will revolve around Berger’s book “ISIS: State of Terror” and will touch on many aspects involving the group including its increasingly obvious use of social media to target followers.

Berger, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, an American think tank, is also an expert on terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). He will speak about how these kinds of groups work to scare populations and eventually recruit new fighters.

Senior Deputy Director at MIGS, Kyle Matthews, said the discussion will also go into what is presently happening with ISIS, including the recent destruction in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, and what the actions of this group mean for the future of the Middle East and the rest of the world.

“It’s going to be a discussion where we’ll have [Berger] sitting in an armchair with a journalist reflecting on questions pertaining to Canadian foreign policy and Canadian issues, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Matthews said. “We have Canadians who have joined this group [ISIS] that’s committed genocide, and at least 20 Quebec youth that have left college or university to join.  Some we’ll never see again, they’ll probably die in the battlefields, but we see that social media has the power to reach into the bedrooms of Canadians and impose upon them a very dangerous world view.”

Guided by La Presse journalist Vincent Larouche, the conversation will last approximately 40 minutes followed by a Q-and-A with the audience, which, according to Matthews, should be just as interesting as the discussion itself due to the variety of those attending.

“There will be academics there, students, former diplomats, people from different police agencies, as well as people from human rights groups. It’s a real mix, and we should have a really interesting back and forth.”

Despite not being centred on the current refugee crisis, Matthews said the discussion will be taking place in the backdrop of recent events. “I mean why are people fleeing? Yes, [Syrian president] Assad and the brutal regime are all responsible for a lot of death and destruction, no doubt about that. But ISIS has taken it to another level of depravity which is not about holding political office and staying in power, it’s about establishing some kind of new society based on religious laws that throws every international human rights instrument out the window,” he said. “This is not history, it’s current events, and history is being formed in the Middle East right now.”

Citing the story of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy found on the shores of Turkey after attempting to flee the civil war, Matthews said those who don’t know about ISIS, should. “The people affected by this group are in the news every day,” he said. “ISIS is not just some group far off, they’re actually doing some of the most oppressive, dangerous things we’ve seen in the early start of the 21st century.”

The discussion and book signing will be taking place in H-1220, followed by a cocktail in EV’s 11th floor lounge.

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