The extremist Islamic State group should be permitted to recruit on college campuses. At least, that's what state Rep. Martin Daniel of Knoxville, Tennessee, suggested Wednesday in a subcommittee meeting there, according to the Tennessean.
Daniel, a Republican, was supporting a bill protecting students right to free speech when he encountered resistance from Rep. John DeBerry Jr., a Democrat representing Memphis. DeBerry asked whether a person should be allowed to "stand in the marketplace or in the town square" at schools like the University of Tennessee or University of Memphis and recruit for the Islamic State group (aka ISIS), which is accused of killing 2,000 people last year alone in Syria and Iraq in what the U.S. is now labeling a genocide.
Daniel defended his legislation. "Yes, so long as it doesn’t disrupt the proceedings on that campus," he said, according to WATE. "They can recruit people for any other organization or any other cause. I think it’s just part of being exposed to differing viewpoints."
The legislation, called the Tennessee Student Free Speech Protection Act, would require higher education institutions to adopt specific policies designating outdoor areas on campus as public forums where people can assemble. But DeBerry fired back that shouldn't include organizations like ISIS.
“There are young people who are not ready yet — they're half-baked, half-cooked — who are recruited to work against their own parents, their own nation, and I would be concerned as a parent and as a citizen,” DeBerry said, drawing a distinction between free speech and "being stupid."
The legislation was then taken off notice, WATE reported.
An ISIS presence on campus could be a particular concern because most of the group's recruits so far have been young people. Teenagers may see religion as an escape from the frustrations of their everyday lives, CNN reported, and therefore are especially susceptible to recruitment. European countries specifically have wrestled with cases of teenage girls fleeing their homes to become child brides in Syria.
The fighters also rely heavily on social media to attract potential new members. "The concern is that you have a message that is proving romantic, heroic and alluring to a swath of the Western population that's dangerous," said national security analyst Juan Zarate told CBS last year.
FBI Director James Comey said last fall that his agency was investigating about 900 cases of alleged ISIS sympathizers in all 50 states.
However, college students might not be paying close attention. In November 2014, filmmaker Ami Horowitz released a Fox News video showing him waving an ISIS flag on campus at the University of California - Berkeley and being largely ignored by passersby, according to KPIX.