Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy gave a presentation for TED called “Inside a school for suicide bombers”.
TED introduces her speech like this:
Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy takes on a terrifying question: How does the Taliban convince children to become suicide bombers? Propaganda footage from a training camp is intercut with her interviews of young camp graduates. A shocking vision.
Here is the excellent video:
After the video, I could not help but seeing some disturbing parallels to the insular world of Orthodox Judaism.
Some excerpts from her presentation:
“I, in my research, have seen that the Taliban have perfected the way in which they recruit and train children. And I think it's a five step process:
Step one is that the Taliban prey on families that are large, that are poor, that live in rural areas. They separate the parents from the children be promising to provide food, clothing, shelter to these children. Then they ship them off, hundreds of miles away to hard-line schools that run along the Taliban agenda.
Step two: They teach the children the Koran, which is Islam's holiest book, in Arabic, a language these children do not understand and cannot speak. They rely very heavily on teachers who I have personally seen distort the message to these children as and when it suits their purpose to. These children are explicitly forbidden from reading newspapers, listening to radio, reading any books that the teachers do not prescribe them. If any child is found violating these rules, he is severely reprimanded. Effectively, the Taliban create a complete blackout of any other source of information for these children.
Step three: The Taliban want these children to hate the world that they currently live in. So they beat these children. I have seen it. They feed them twice a day dried bread and water. They rarely allow them to play games. They tell them that, for eight hours at a time, all they have to do is read the Koran. The children are virtual prisoners. They cannot leave; they cannot go home. Their parents are so poor, they have no resources to get them back.
Step four: The older members of the Taliban, the fighters, start talking to the younger boys about the glories of martyrdom. They talk to them about how, when they die, they will be received up with lakes of honey and milk, how there will be 72 virgins waiting for them in paradise, how there will be unlimited food and how this glory is going to propel them to become heroes in their neighborhoods. Effectively, this is the brainwashing process that has begun.
Step five: I believe the Taliban have one of the most effective means of propaganda. Their videos that they use are intercut with photographs of men and women and children dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and in Pakistan. And the basic message is that the Western powers do not care about civilian deaths, so those people who live in areas and support governments that work with Western powers are fair game. That's why Pakistani civilians, over 6,000 of whom have been killed in the last two years alone, are fair game. Now these children are primed to become suicide bombers. They're ready to go out and fight because they've been told that this is effectively their only way to glorify Islam.”
OK, OJ is not that extreme. But there are many parallels that can be found on ‘this end of the extreme’. Let’s go through the steps in our imagination and replace for one moment the Taliban movement with Orthodox Judaism…
Step 1: If you ensure that families are large and therefore poor, they are more likely to become extremists. This is almost a prerequisite to the politicizing of religion. You cut their funds and they become dependent on you. (“Rebbe, I have financial problems, what should I do?”. “Pray harder, my son! And are you sure you gave 10% of your money to tzedokah?”) As a side effect, large families create a political time bomb that will ensure political influence.
Step 2: One does not learn how to rely on his own interpretations. Pesukim are distorted, raped by the Rabbis (we call that midrash, btw) and taken out of context altogether. Also, we are supposed to avoid sforim chitzoiniyim, radio, television, Internet, etc. and are warned to be careful not to befriend off the derech and non-OJ people (unless for kiruv purposes).
Step 3: We were taught that we are different from the goyim, that we should not mingle with them, to hate their aveiros and machshovahs. We are taught that Kach hi darkah shel Torah: Pas bemelach tochal. Frum people are encouraged to go to Kolel and be poor (or marry rich in-laws). We are supposed to learn Torah day and night. We are virtual prisoners of the system.
Step 4: Brainwashing starts at a very young age. My toddler son already knows that goyim are different from us and that we have mitzvos (boruch Hashem) and they don’t (nebbach). The earlier, the better!
Step 5: We believe that there is almost no holier thing than to die, like Rabbi Akiva, al kiddush Hashem, with Shema on our lips. But thankfully, it is not a Jewish thing to actively peruse this martyrdom.
This is where the comparison ends. For now.