A Belgian Father Works To Prevent Kids From Joining The Jihad : Parallels A Belgian man rescued his son, who ran away to join Islamist extremists in Syria. Now he is trying to stop others from making the same mistake as his boy.
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A Belgian Father Works To Prevent Kids From Joining The Jihad

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A Belgian Father Works To Prevent Kids From Joining The Jihad

A Belgian Father Works To Prevent Kids From Joining The Jihad

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

One of those young radicals from Belgium is the subject of our next story. He was a Belgian teenager who converted to Islam and later went to Syria to join fighters there. NPR's Peter Kenyon met up with his father, who is now trying to prevent other young Europeans from following the same path.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Dimitri Bontinck is part of Belgium's Dutch-speaking majority. He says his son, Jejoen, was raised as a typical Western boy. But then, Bontinck says, his son began dating a Muslim girl, joined a radicalization group and wound up in Syria, where he spent nearly nine months, most of them in misery.

DIMITRI BONTINCK: From that nine months, I think he was almost six months hostage. Because they suspected he really was a spy, they called his father to come and rescue him.

KENYON: Bontinck did go to Syria after his son. He says he was captured and tortured but finally managed to bring Jejoen back to Belgium. Since then Bontinck has acted as a consultant giving presentations in schools and elsewhere, trying to convince other young people not to fall for the recruiting lures used by Islamist groups. He freely admits he's no longer the same tolerant Westerner he once was. He believes many Islamist groups abuse Europe's laws defending freedom of religion and expression to run shadowy recruiting efforts that the Belgian government has been unable to deal with.

BONTINCK: There is no de-radicalization project in Belgium. In the whole entire world, there is only four countries where there is a de-radicalization project, it's Holland, Swiss, Denmark and Saudi Arabia.

KENYON: As for programs in other countries, he dismisses them with an expletive. Bontinck believes that the Belgian link to the Paris attacks proves that the government's scrutiny and control of suspected Islamists is clearly inadequate.

BONTINCK: They really need - not only in Belgium, but worldwide - more technology, more budgets, more workers to save our nations and our security of our people, you know?

KENYON: Doesn't that also mean less individual freedom, less democracy, less of the Western values that are supposed to be the whole point of the EU?

BONTINCK: Yeah.

KENYON: Yeah, he sighs, before putting it more bluntly, saying, do I think we need to live in a police state?

BONTINCK: Well, I'm sorry to say, in the security of our nations - Western nations - I think it's necessary.

KENYON: It's a view many Europeans would reject out of hand, even Dimitri Bontinck - before his son's dramatic experience among the Islamists in Syria. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Brussels.

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