Pakistani Moms Keep Sons From Being Radicalized
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
As we just heard from Jackie, most drone strikes are in areas along the border with Afghanistan, places overrun in recent years by the Pakistani Taliban and other radical groups. And our next guest is using a form of soft power to fight terrorism there: mothers. Mossarat Qadeem is deploying mothers to pull their sons back from militancy.
Qadeem is a political scientist who left academia several years ago to found an organization she called PAIMAN - meaning promise. It focuses on young men who are vulnerable to militancy, especially the enticement of being paid to fight.
Mossarat Qadeem is in Washington, D.C. this week, leading a delegation of women activists from Pakistan, meeting with congressmen, aid agencies and civil society organizations. She joined us in our studio.
MOSSARAT QADEEM: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: How much influence do mothers have over their sons when it comes to their sons being vulnerable to radicalization, extremism?
QADEEM: In Pashtun society, a women - and particularly a madam - is very well-respected. And people - like the sons - they do listen to the mothers. But age is also very important, because I - we only work with the age group of 14 to 21, 22. That means they're influenced very easily and quickly outside where they can be influenced inside the house, as well, very easily. And once a mother is convinced, I think, you convince the whole family, the whole community then.
MONTAGNE: Could you give me an example of one mother and one son; one son who was in some way pulled into the orbit of extremism and they found their way to you?
QADEEM: One of the mothers, she was living in Swat, you know, she was being chased and followed by so many people because her son was in the hideout. She was in tears and she said, it's my son. I didn't even know, he didn't know because he was just selling them. He was just helping them and we didn't know that these are the people who are going to harm the community. And then we just told her that we will give you safety and security. We will, of course, talk to the authorities and so on. And we tried to discuss it with her that she should call the son; we would like to talk to him. She said he would never meet. We will never like to meet you. So one night she called me. I think it was nine o'clock - I live in Islamabad - then she said my son is here; would you like to meet him? So I went there the next morning and I sat with the boy in the kitchen. And we were having breakfast on the floor of the kitchen, and I just asked him why is he putting his life at risk? And he just pushed the plate and he said I could not have this food, and it's because of their help that I now am sitting with you and having this plate of food in front of me. And...
MONTAGNE: Because he was being paid.
QADEEM: He was being paid. I said OK, now if we give you a good skill where you can earn a decent livelihood and you will be given protection and security and you can give the same to your family - because look at your mother, she's already like, you know, running for her life. So what we usually do, we train these people. We do a lot of psychosocial counseling and then we offer them some skills. And then we place them.
MONTAGNE: When you say we place them, you place them into jobs.
QADEEM: Yes. And now 79 of these boys - whom I will not say that they were all extremists like or they were in the hideouts or they were with the Taliban, but they were really much like, you know, under the influence of this idology and some of them really were working with some of the groups. Seventy-nine of them are transformed, they have been rehabilitated, they are reintegrated. So my plea here, is that there is way. So if the drones are stopped and the amount of money that is being spent on the drone can be converted into schools, hospitals and economic opportunities for everyone in that society and community, believe me, you will find people who will be transformed because we need to provide them alternatives. An alternative is missing.
MONTAGNE: Mossarat Qadeem runs an organization in Pakistan aimed at moderating militancy, called PAIMAN or Promise.
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