The fight against the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is, in part, a war of ideas. ISIS pushes a radical ideology that claims to justify murder, rape and all the atrocities the terrorist group has visited on the Iraqi and Syrian people, as well as hostages from other countries. In the United States, it is paramount that we counter this narrative, providing a clear, compelling alternative to ISIS’ hateful, vicious message.

As a part of that effort, fellow Security Debrief contributor Erroll Southers and I have been working on a Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) project in Minneapolis, Minn., speaking with a Somali-American community that terrorist recruiters have targeted for years. A DHS Science & Technology Directorate-sponsored project through the National Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at the University of Southern California (USC), the project is looking at community-driven programs that may be effective in deterring terrorist recruitment. One program we are investigating is Average Mohamed, an innovative project that uses cartoons to counter the extremist messages directed at young people. The project is run by Mohamed Ahmed, a resident of Minneapolis. (Security Debrief contributor Beverly Lwenya also previously wrote about this project.)

Ahmed and Southers spoke on CNN’s New Day, discussing the threats to the Somali-American community and how projects like Average Mohamed can make a difference. The project is also covered in a recent article (excerpted below) from USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy.

USC’s CREATE Works with ‘Average Mohammed,’ a Grassroots Effort to Counter Foreign Fighters

After a series of terror attacks, the most recent being the attack in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, law enforcement and military personnel are tracking down terrorist cells. But in Minneapolis, one man is fighting extremist groups with cartoons.

Groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are using extremist narratives to lure young, impressionable people to join their causes and engage in violence. Countering their messages requires simple, direct ways of offering alternative narratives. Average Mohamed is a grassroots effort founded and driven by Minneapolis resident Mohamed Ahmed.

“It takes an idea to defeat an idea,” said Ahmed. “Extremist ideology must be competed against. It only takes an average man to radicalize and recruit vulnerable young people, and it only takes an average man to offer a different, peaceful narrative. Average Mohamed is the answer to the ongoing efforts to mislead our children.”

Read the full article.

Justin Hienz is Editor for Security Debrief. He blogs primarily on radicalization, aviation security, religious and Middle Eastern affairs, and communications. Read More