Changing the minds of wannabe terrorists

More commentary on deradicalization approaches:

And while these may seem to be the only two options open to Canadians who turn down the path of violent extremism — death or a court date — experts say a third option — deradicalization — isn’t receiving the attention it deserves.

“These programs can work,” said Jocelyn Bélanger, a psychology professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal who has studied radicalization around the world.

“Even though the number of cases (of homegrown extremism) are limited, we know how much damage just a few individuals can create. … If we do it well, if we read the research on this, we can develop better programs. We can be preventive as well, flagging individuals who are at risk, and once they are flagged they go into a (deradicalization) program.

”Existing approaches to this type of “deprogramming” have had varying degrees of success, and the rehabilitation is usually offered on a voluntary basis, Bélanger said. In most cases, the “beneficiary” is given a choice, to serve their sentence in jail or in a special facility.

“I know it sounds like a false choice, but it is nonetheless psychologically important,” explained Bélanger. In Saudi Arabia, he noted, “Imams will actually use the Qur’an, will engage in discussion with the beneficiary about the Qur’an, ultimately trying to convince them that Islam does not support the killing of innocents.”

Changing the minds of wannabe terrorists.

Farzana Hassan, who seems to be oblivious to the many messages from Canadian Muslims against extremism:

Muslims need to transcend the propaganda that has so defined their narrative on these issues and reject the naive “crusader” fiction.

Tragically, this is a point lost on the majority of the faithful, even supposed moderates.

Mosques must discredit this narrative actively, and they must preach the values of Canadian identity even above religious affiliation.

While Muslims are of course entitled to remain distinct, they must abide not only by the laws of the land but also by its universal values.

Inciting the murder of innocent Canadians is a clear violation of those laws and values.

In dealing with religious extremism, true moderation involves more than refusing to commit violence; it involves campaigning against the absurd political assumptions that may encourage it in others.

…It is the obscurantist views of extremists like Maguire that have hampered progress towards economic prosperity and political stability in the Muslim world for so long.

Muslims must not see attacks on ISIS as attacks on their religion as a whole.

On the contrary, they may help alleviate all the burdens that have bedeviled the Islamic world for so many decades.

Al Canadi’s rants are those of an impressionable and disturbed young man brainwashed by a lethal world view, a view so simplistic we can only wonder at its appeal.​—brainwashed-disturbed …

Michel Petrou provides a good overview of some of the challenges with deradicalization and the absence of an equivalent program in Canada, citing the UK experience in particular:

Usama Hasan, a British imam and senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank in Britain, says he is “astonished” that Canada does not have a de-radicalization program for Canadians who have returned from Syria and Iraq.

“There may be a risk that they’ve spent time with extremist groups and been brutalized by the war. So there’s always a risk that their minds won’t be thinking straight. So it’s very important to have ‘de-rad,’ which has to include a bit of mental health counselling and looking at PTSD and things like that,” he says.

“Even if they are prosecuted and convicted, you still need to de-rad them, because they will eventually be released from prison, and quite possibly they will be even more of a threat then because they will have been hardened in prison, and so they’re a threat either way.”

When he was a student at Cambridge University in the early 1990s, Hasan left Britain and briefly joined the Islamist insurrection, or jihad, against Afghanistan’s communist government.

At the time, Hasan was a radical Salafist and followed an extreme interpretation of Islam. He has since become much more moderate. In addition to officiating at interfaith marriage ceremonies, he now advises the British government on its own de-radicalization program, dubbed Channel.

People immersed in extremist groups “live in a kind of disconnected world,” says Hasan.

“They have their own reality, which they invent and perpetuate among their group by repeating the same old propaganda over and over again, but also blocking out anything that runs counter to that world view. We have to find holes in their world view and try to get through to them in as many ways as possible to make them doubt and rethink those kinds of ideas.”

Has likens the process to convincing someone to leave a gang. “You have to give them alternatives, address their needs,” he says.

When extremists rely on their faith to justify their world view, “you have to address all those religious points as well,” he says, “with better religion.”

Hasan describes recently counselling a young man who was determined to go to Syria. Hasan says the man knew “almost nothing” about the conflict there, or about the Middle East in general.

“People had just told him it was a war between Muslims and non-Muslims, and it was his duty to go and fight for Islam.”

The man believed there were American ground troops in Syria whom he could fight. Hasan educated him about the war, especially its sectarian nature and the ongoing slaughter occurring between Muslims. The potential recruit decided to stay in Britain.

He was lucky. Many others have left from Britain, Canada and other Western countries and died far from home. Some have committed horrific atrocities. Some will come back. Whether we like it or not, we’re going to have to figure out a way to live with them.

Canada’s extremist problem –

From the US and the need for a more differentiated approach:

“Should they be prosecuted, should they be counseled, should they be reintegrated in a more compassionate way?” says Juan Zarate, who used to be a terrorism official at the Treasury Department. He’s now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Those are important questions because to the extent they are not fully radicalized, they perhaps were lured by a romanticized vision of what life was like in Syria,” he says. “Maybe it is appropriate to apply different tools and measures to peel them away from the movement as opposed to the same tools we have applied to more hard-core members of the group.”

When Americans Head To Syria, How Much Of A Threat Do They Pose?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: