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The Predatory Problem

There is a danger within mainstream education that our focus on the promotion of tolerance and having a positive view of religion becomes so all consuming that we ignore the potent force that it becomes in the hands of manipulative and skilled extremist recruiters. Students need to be aware that not all religious people have their best interests at heart. They need to learn to discern between those that can enhance and those that can destroy lives in order to protect themselves and survive in the spiritual jungle.

Destructive cults and extremist groups undermine individual liberty, family life and society, preying on both the young and the old. Society still does not fully understand their prevalence. Extremists from many persuasions continue to recruit online and in person everywhere across the globe. And people generally are not prepared for such encounters. Many people believe the myth that recruitment and radicalization is something that only happens to other people. They believe that it only happens to fools and neurotics, people who are markedly different in some way or to those who become attracted solely by the group’s message. This myth generates a false sense of security and leaves us totally unprepared for cultic encounters. Predators capitalize on this ignorance.

Louise Samways, Australian psychologist and researcher claims that ‘Dismissing terrorists as “evil” religious fanatics is not only totally incorrect but extremely dangerous. In their early life, terrorists appear to be no different psychologically to other people’. Many appear to be ‘good’ people. Yet, some go on to commit horrific evil crimes against society and against humanity, in the words of Lifton ‘destroying the world in order to save it’. How can this be? People need to understand how an individual’s belief and behaviour can change so radically and dramatically. For decades, psychologists have been reminding us that under the right circumstances, anybody can become vulnerable to a recruiters technique, especially if they are unaware of recruitment methods and unfamiliar with the often subtle psychological processes used to change their belief system.

Marc Galanter, a Psychiatrist from New York University School of Medicine echoes these views, saying ‘We live in a time when techniques of manipulating group psychology have been developed into workable procedures for engaging the unsuspecting. Therefore it is important for the public to be educated to understand how they can be drawn into movements whose covert agendas they may not understand. This responsibility falls on the schools as well as the media.’


The good news is that it is entirely possible to be educated to recognise and resist any predatory persuaders we encounter.  Wise up courses equip students with the knowledge and skills to detect coercive influence, enabling them to discern manipulation and to self safeguard, defending their freedom of mind. We can prevent predatory manipulation through education.

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