Recruits a useful tool in fighting Islamic State cult

“…But as the government considers stripping citizenship from Australian terrorists to prevent their return, Mr Aron said the government should make a distinction between the hardcore leaders, such as Islamic State recruiter Khaled Sharrouf, and youth such as reclusive Melbourne schoolboy Jake Bilardi who was recruited as a suicide bomber…”

Melbourne psychologist Raphael Aron is fielding calls from parents worried about their children being radicalised. Picture: David Geraghty
Melbourne psychologist Raphael Aron is fielding calls from parents worried about their children being radicalised. Picture: David Geraghty

Recruits a useful tool in fighting Islamic State cult

June 2, 2015, The Australian, June 2, 2015
By Sarah Martin – Political reporter, Canberra…

Sarah Martin Political Reporter, The Australian
Sarah Martin Political Reporter, The Australian

In 30 years working in the field of religious cults and mind control, Raphael Aron has seen the gamut of indoctrination techniques.

From religious groups, to pseudo healers, fortune-tellers, psychics or self-proclaimed gurus, all use similar methods to entrap and recruit members.

Mr Aron, a counsellor and the director of Cult Consulting in Melbournes south, says Islamic State is the latest cult preying on vulnerable individuals using timeworn tactics of religious fanatics. They approach vulnerable individuals, offer friendship and a sense of belonging, and a glorious, trouble-free future, before taking control of lives.

Mr Aron said terror recruits were using similar grooming tactics to pedophiles and other cults in targeting vulnerable individuals online, and he has begun fielding calls and emails from parents worried about the lure of Islamic State.

There is not a lot of difference between cults to indoctrinate a following and terrorist groups to radicalise their recruits, he said.

Most of the radicalisation is taking place on the internet and it is taking place in a very targeted way; it is not simply a question of people reading about ISIS, the main source of radicalisation is through the chatrooms on the internet where terrorist groups go into the chatrooms and hand-pick them.

Mr Aron says allowing Islamic State recruits who want to flee the clutches of the group to return to Australia could prove a useful tool in preventing further recruits, or deradicalising those on the path to jihad.

The method is commonly used to help counsel cult victims back to reality.

But as the government considers stripping citizenship from Australian terrorists to prevent their return, Mr Aron said the government should make a distinction between the hardcore leaders, such as Islamic State recruiter Khaled Sharrouf, and youth such as reclusive Melbourne schoolboy Jake Bilardi who was recruited as a suicide bomber.

With cults we use people that have been involved with groups, and there is something to be said about talking to people who have actually been in those situations before, he said.

If someone was able to be deradicalised, it would be extremely valuable; the question would be whether it would be possible with someone so hard-core (as Sharrouf). I think with someone who has been on the receiving end?- a Jake Bilardi-style person, and someone who has survived it?- I believe that they could be potentially extremely valuable, but there would need to be a careful vetting process.

While he said Sharrouf was likely beyond redemption, he said the government had a responsibility to help his five children who were taken to Syria by Sharrouf and partner Tara Nettleton.

These kids are hurt, they are scarred, they are damaged, he said.

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