Over 20,000 foreign fighters have joined the conflict in Iraq and Syria, including around 3,400 from the Western world, according to a recent report by the International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence. ISIS’s digital presence and online strategy are largely attributed to its success in attracting foreign fighters, but Affinis Labs is working to combat this trend.
Shahed Amanullah and Quintan Wiktorowicz launched Affinis Labs in February of this year to foster talented Muslim entrepreneurs in creating businesses and nonprofit programs to contribute to their community. They are currently working on addressing the issue of extremism plaguing parts of their community. By using worldwide hackathons, participants are assigned a security or social issue and given several hours to solve it with innovative ideas and prototypes. The ideas with the most potential are aided by Affinis Labs and taken on as projects. “We are excited about bringing together untapped, innovative talent and providing them with the funding, mentorship, and market connections they need to get off the ground,” said co-founder Amanullah in a report by PRWEB.
One of Affinis Lab’s projects is ‘One 2 One,’ an app that can help identify people with extremist tendencies. Young Muslims trained for such work can then use the app to counsel those identified and build an open line of communication.
Another initiative is ‘Come Back 2 Us,’ a website working on an underground railroad of sorts for anyone wishing to return from ISIS. It provides a space for people who have gone to Iraq or Syria to post messages for their loved ones and offers a panic button that will provide information to government contacts who can then act to return them home. This app is currently still in development.
Co-founder Amanullah is working to create an online community for young Muslims where they can find support and explore their identity, particularly for young Muslims living in the West. Amanullah said in a report by Newsweek, “I want to build a community that has so much going for it a person doesn’t have to leave for some illusory utopia.”