The terror group ISIS has launched an aggressive effort to recruit young people, including Americans. That has local government officials, and the local Muslim community, on guard.
The Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin is a place of prayer, education, and play for central Ohio's large, diverse Muslim population.
"Our own community congregation is composed of at least 40-plus different ethnicities. There are people from north Africa, central Africa, Asia, Europe," said Chairman of the Board Imran Malik. He says the families he serves are just like most parents, concerned about protecting their children from outside influences. "We want to make sure our community, especially our youth, are engaged and focused and putting their energies into more constructive communal exercises."
But they have another, more sinister threat potentially targeting their young people: the terror group ISIS, which has appropriated the Muslim faith to justify unspeakable brutality.
"It's very disturbing and I think anyone who does not have respect for human life does not belong to any faith," said Malik.
ISIS has launched a global recruiting campaign that one intelligence group says has produced thousands of members from dozens of countries, including at least 100 from the United States.
"ISIL has put together some very slick videos. They have put forth a marketing effort basically to get more young men and women to join their cause,” said Carter Stewart, US Attorney for the Southern Ohio District. Stewart won't comment on whether it's happened here in Central Ohio, but says our community makes an attractive target.
"It's a university town, so there are a lot of young people who may be swept up into this. We also have very large Muslim communities. We have the second largest Somali community after Minneapolis, so this is an area that could be susceptible to radicalization." Stewart says his office is working with community leaders to build awareness and two-way communication.
Malik says Noor is eager to do its part and expand its youth engagement efforts. "We have to take the ownership of keeping this homeland secure. It really does not do justice to look to law enforcement agencies and the federal government to be the only saviors here. We all have to do our fair share as a community."
Noor Islamic Center hosted Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson two weeks ago,
On Wednesday, Noor leaders met with local law enforcement officials and community leaders to plan next steps in efforts to strengthen those relationships.