CHARLOTTE, North Carolina, May 17, 2016 – For decades the popular PBS television program Sesame Street has taught children about numbers, letters, language and countless other pre-school lessons using characters like Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, Elmo, Bert and Ernie and Kermit the Frog. Now ISIS is getting into children’s programming as well.
The new Islamic State app is referred to as “Cubs for the Caliphate” with the goal of helping children learn Arabic using visual aids like guns, tanks and cannons.
It all appears innocent enough with brightly colored screens filled with balloons and flowers, but the imagery is little more than a way to hide the militaristic themes. For example, the Arabic letter “dal” is represented by a picture of a tank. The site uses a gun for the letter “ba” and a bullet for “ta.” There are also games and songs which, according to Caleb Weiss who reported the app for the Long War Journal, were used as teaching aides that were “littered with jihadist terminology.”
ISIS released the app for Android devices through the appropriately named propaganda department known as the “Library of Zeal.”
Though the new format is not the first effort by ISIS to influence children through high tech mobile applications, it is the first time the terrorist organization has devoted its recruiting efforts to a site that is entirely for children. Earlier methods of influencing children were dedicated to portraying young boys as suicide bombers and jihadi fighters. There were also at least four videos that were produced using children as executioners.
Now the Islamic State is resorting to a “kinder, gentler” approach by using bold colors and bright images to capture the interest of their unsuspecting audience.
The app is called Huroof which translates to mean “alphabet” or “letter” in Arabic.
Al Bayan Radio, an FM broadcasting service which airs Islamic State propaganda throughout the Middle East, made the app available for Android phones through the encrypted messaging app called Telegram. Telegram is not available through the Google Play store but apparently can be accessed through online files that are shared.
Some analysts believe such indoctrination could have long range implications that will make it increasingly difficult to defeat and/or eliminate the Islamic State over time.
Some parents in regions controlled by ISIS have said their children are coming home from school carrying white dolls dressed in orange jumpsuits. Part of their homework assignments, are to “execute” their dolls.
Among other things depicted on Huroof are some of ISIS’ battlefield victories and graphic executions.
ISIS sent out a press release which included screenshots from the app saying, it “teaches the cubs the alphabet letters.” The Islamic State calls children “cubs” because they refer to their adult fighters as “lions.”
So while American youngsters concern themselves with Miss Piggy and her daily tribulations with Kermit, the Islamic State teaches children how to kill, maim and hate.
It’s just a way life in those jayvee jihadist organizations that have nothing to do with Islam.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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