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Al-Arabiya TV director Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed called the proliferation of Islamic “religious propaganda channels” “too dangerous to be left unrestricted.” The proliferation of these channels is made easier by fatwas, or religious edicts, that permit zakat (charity) “as a means of funding Islamic media projects.” Hezbollah’s Al-Manar Beirut-based network beams children’s television programs throughout the Middle East, and to Asia and Australia, by using Indosat, an Indonesian satellite company. The channel depicts cartoons and music videos glorifying suicide bombing and revering violence and terrorism.
Other videos, leaked on the Internet, show the results of such mass indoctrination, for example, a shocking 2007 video showed a young knife-wielding boy beheading an accused American spy in the Balochistan province in western Pakistan. What looks like a homemade video recently emerged on YouTube showing a Sudanese “jihad terror training camp” for boys, some as young as 4 years old. The subtitles state that each of the children has been trained to use an AK-47 assault rifle and “will do their duty to Allah and the Ummah when called upon to do so.”
Across the pond, DVDs have been marketed to UK born Muslim youth, teaching them to become human bombs. One such DVD is part of an Egyptian series and features a sing-a-long glorifying suicide bombing and was on sale in West Yorkshire, where three of the July 7, 2005 London bombers lived. Even more shocking, a BBC investigation exposed that across Britain, pupils at Saudi-funded Islamic schools are being taught how to chop off a criminal’s hand and that Jews are conspiring to take over the world. As a result, British children as young as 7 have been identified by police as being groomed for terrorism, and officials at the Home Office have set up what they call “The Channel Project” to deprogram their youth.
Concerns over freedom of expression abound when discussing the censorship of television programming. Yet, by virtue of their age and impressionability, children are entitled to special protections under both international and national law. When a broadcaster knowingly and specifically targets children with its programming, a legal obligation ensues due to the nature of its underage audience that would not otherwise have arisen with respect to an adult viewership. To illustrate, Article 17 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) emphasizes the responsibility of broadcasters to “encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being.” The CRC likewise emphasizes the right of every child to an education system and media free of incitement to hate and violence. The CRC further mandates that Signatory states “encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child.”
Sadly, the employment of children to wage war is not a new tactic. However, the widespread indoctrination and recruitment of a society’s own children to kill themselves, through mass-marketed music videos, satellite-beamed television shows and Internet sites, is historically unprecedented.
By broadcasting hate channels aimed at children, satellite companies are not only violating the law; they are also aiding and abetting the murder of innocent Muslim children. No child, Muslim or otherwise, should be exposed to abusive programming. Nor should U.S.-based websites like Facebook and YouTube be excused for hosting martyrdom propaganda. Given the scale of this child abuse and the obvious relevance of this phenomenon to the war on terrorism, turning a blind eye is simply out of the question. Yet the silence thus far exhibited by our politicians and the human rights community is alarming and operates only to give a green light to terrorists so that they may continue their actions with impunity, destroying the world’s most valuable resource: its children.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Brooke Goldstein is a New-York based human rights attorney, author, activist and award-winning filmmaker. Her documentary film, The Making of a Martyr, received the Audience Choice Award for Best Film at the 2006 United Nations Documentary film Festival, and details the ongoing, illegal, state-sponsored recruitment of Palestinian children as suicide bombers and child soldiers. Goldstein is the founder and director of the Children’s Rights Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about, and legally combating, the violation of children’s basic human rights as occurring throughout the globe. Goldstein also serves as director of The Lawfare Project, a not-for-profit legal think tank aimed at raising awareness about the abuse of human rights laws and judicial systems to further military ends.
Elisa Rojas is a graduate of the University of Iowa with degrees in Political Science and International Studies. She is currently pursuing her J.D. in New York City and seeks to practice in the field of international law particularly in the area of human rights. Rojas serves as research assistant at the Children’s Rights Institute.
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