Boxing gym keeps youth off the streets and away from radical Islam

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Yassine Bouanan, 26, is a pretty good boxer. But if things had turned out just a little differently, he might have been a more pernicious kind of fighter. “Each time I had a problem I would react with my fists,” he told Fusion investigative correspondent Mariana van Zeller.

‘If it didn’t exist, I would have gone bad,’ Bouanan said of the gym. ‘Yes, yes, for sure.’

The ex-gang member works out at the Brussels Boxing Academy, a Belgian gym that trains hundreds of young people in the sweet science every year — and that has lost a handful of them to extremism of the sort responsible for last month’s deadly terror attacks in the Belgian capital’s airport and metro system. “Everything we are doing in our club, it’s the opposite of a radical idea,” academy manager Tom Flachet said.

Now Bouanan — who himself has been targeted for recruiting by radical Islamist groups — and Flachet work together to dissuade their boxing trainees from joining ISIS or other violent organizations.

“I try in different ways to talk to these young people, but you know, it is difficult,” Bouanan said.

For more information on Bouanan’s journey, and on the Brussels boxing gym that’s trying to combat radicalism, watch the video above or read Fusion’s longer story here. And check out Radicals Rising, The Naked Truth’s investigative documentary on the increasingly tense battle between right-wing, anti-immigrant extremists and radical Islamists in Europe.

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