What should Canada do about returning jihadists? Lorne Dawson interview

Good interview with Dawson, whose work I continue to find impressive.

Nice contrast with some of the shallower pieces on the issue of returning extremist fighters (e.g., ‘Canada does not engage in death squads,’ while allies actively hunt …BONOKOSKI: Kill them before they come home? Too un-Canadian):

What to do about Canadians who joined the so-called Islamic State when they come home—now that ISIS has been routed on the battlefield in the territory in Iraq and Syria that it used to call its “caliphate”—has emerged as a challenge for Justin Trudeau’s government.

The return of battle-hardened ISIS terrorists is a disturbing prospect. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s office says the number of individuals shouldn’t be exaggerated, though, telling Maclean’sthat Canadian intelligence agencies are aware of about 60 terrorist travellers who have returned to Canada from conflict zones in the past decade, including a small number from Syria and Iraq.

Even lumping them together under the heading “foreign fighters” isn’t entirely accurate, since some were involved in financing terrorism or generating propaganda. An estimated 180 to 190 terrorist travellers with ties to Canada have not come back, but a spokesman for Goodale said in an email, “We don’t expect many to return with the number of casualties and the challenge of leaving those areas.”

Still, figuring out how to handle any who do make their way to Canada is now a pressing concern. Lorne Dawson, a professor in the University of Waterloo’s sociology and legal studies department, has a unique perspective on what might work—and what likely won’t. Dawson is part of a team of academic researchers who have systematically interviewed dozens of foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria over social media, trying to formulate a picture of their motivations and backgrounds.

He’s also closely familiar with programs in Europe that tried to prevent radicalization of young men in the first place—approaches that have been adapted to cope with former ISIS fighters when they straggle back from the conflict zones. Dawson spoke with me earlier today about what Canada should be doing, including what the federal government might learn from Britain and Denmark, where the scale of the problem is much larger.

Q: Given how bad ISIS is, shouldn’t returning fighters just be arrested?

A: It’s going to be almost impossible under most legal jurisdictions to find enough solid evidence to really convincingly prosecute them. So you could waste your time prosecuting them and have about half your cases fail in the courts, which no government wants to do on terrorism issues because it just looks bad, politically bad, and it’s sets all kinds of bad precedents.

That’s true in Canada, too. You do not want to prosecute unless you think you have a really strong case. Trying to get that kind of evidence, legally viable evidence, out of places like Syria and Iraq, so you could prosecute someone, the challenges are just unbelievable.

Q: So what do you do when the fighters come back? Someone returns who looks to have been involved with a terrorist group in Syria or Iraq, but you don’t have enough evidence to arrest them. What should you do?

A: You need to sit down and have a conversation with these people. They need to enter into these programs for countering violent extremism. But it has to be voluntary, or relatively voluntary, everyone knows that, or it won’t work. But, of course, you make it only somewhat voluntary by saying, “Look, your options are either you enter into this program or we’re going to continue to do a full-court press on you to prosecute you.” And most of them are aware they could end up in prison. So there is a strong incentive.

Q: And what does the program they’ve signed up for look like?

A: You have panels of experts that gather and they are supplied with all the information that can be found on the person. These experts are from multiple backgrounds. So social working, community working, educational specialist, occupational therapist, religious leaders from the community—anyone who’s thought to be relevant.

Q: So you’ve assembled experts. What’s their job?

A: First you do assessment. What is this person’s situation? Well, they’re not going to be able to reintegrate into our society because they didn’t even finish their high school. Right away, let’s start finding a way for this person to complete their educational requirements. They’re going to need some subsidy to do that. They’re going to need some assistance in getting into a program. Provide that.

They then also initiate family counselling and try and get the person, if there’s strained relations with the family, reconnected to the family and reintegrated in the community in that way. Now, through this whole process they have to report to the police regularly. They’re being monitored, they’re not being surveilled, that would be way too expensive. People are making sure they’re not associating with other known jihadists and things of that nature.

Q: Is there any evidence this sort of approach works?

A: We don’t have exact numbers, but the Danish government basically is saying they’ve now dealt with dozens of such individuals and that there’s not a single case yet where they’ve encountered someone going through one of these programs who then went and committed a terrorist act. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

Q: What would you say to people who’ll respond to all this by saying, “Oh, come on, professor—these are hardened, horrible people, who are implicated in all kinds of atrocities. How can you talk about a rehabilitation?”

A: I recognize the resistance to these ideas. But, from the best studies we have available—which admittedly do not deal with people coming from Syria and Iraq and from ISIS, where we have a much more extreme circumstance—but from all of the real studies done of the people who fought in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Somalia and elsewhere in the world, involved in jihadist struggles, the numbers show that about a third die in the fight, about a third never come back because they want to go live in a Muslim-majority country and they disappear into Morocco or wherever, and about a third come home.

Of the ones that come home, the vast majority are either disillusioned or they’re to some extent traumatized and feel they done their bit—”I did my service to fight for the Muslim people against their oppressors, but I’m done.” A tiny fraction of them will be coming back actually still radicalized and interested in engaging in some kind of, you know, further terrorist action. And so this is why you have to have a really careful debriefing process, an assessment process, and of course our security officials know how to do that. That’s their job.

Q: Are you still in contact with active foreign fighters? Are you talking to them, the way you’ve done in the past through social media?

A: Yes and no. Our channels are still open, but there’s nothing happening. Because ever since the major assault on Mosul, almost all the presence and social media of the individuals we were talking to, or watching on Twitter and other social media, they just disappeared.

Q: Do you think they are dead?

A: Many I think are dead. And I think what happened is, of course, once full military activity happened, they were just told, “You do not use your phone.” Obviously phones can be tracked in various ways. All communications stopped. We haven’t had an actual live conversation with anyone in Syria and Iraq in a couple of months.

Q: Do you get called by CSIS and RCMP regularly about what your online contact with jihadists in Iraq and Syria? Do they ask you for information?

A: No. Our funding is from the government. It’s through competitive programs. Our current funding is from the community resilience fund, through this new Centre for Community Engagement and Prevention of Violence. So of course they recognize, and it’s always stipulated in there, that we have academic freedom.

It’s arm’s length, independent, all subject to normal ethics procedures through the universities. And so they know the only way we got ethics clearance to do this research was to have extremely high guarantees around confidentiality. They recognize, in the end, they will get our results, which are beneficial to them, but they don’t get details.

Experts say Liberal counter-radicalization office should bridge, not drive, regional efforts

Not sure it is an either/or choice, some mix of the two approaches may be best:

The challenges, say security and radicalization experts, will lie in defining exactly how the office would work with regional actors: namely, whether it will act as a bridge or a driver.

“Is this going to be driven top-down by government or will it be government supporting more grassroots initiatives?” asked Michael Zekulin, a terrorism researcher at the University of Calgary. “I think most people would agree that it cannot be government-driven because part of the narrative is that government is part of the problem.”

During committee hearings on C-51, the Conservatives’ controversial anti-terrorism legislation, the critique given most often by terrorism researchers was that the bill ignored the need to nip radicalization in the bud, before individuals become inspired to commit violence.

Yet nothing in the legislation provided any kind of a plan for doing that.

The RCMP also promised to launch their own $3.1.-million program — initially called the Countering Violent Extremism Program but later changed to the Terrorism Prevention Program — which then-Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney admitted had no designated timeline and relies on “leveraging existing resources the RCMP already has in place, including frontline police officers, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team members and outreach coordinators.”

At this point, there are few details available about what the Liberals would plan to do differently or how a national coordinator would work with existing programs already being implemented by regional bodies.

There are various initiatives being launched by police agencies and local governments across Canada, said Lorne Dawson, co-director of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society.

In September, the City of Montreal was the only Canadian city out of 23 from across the globe that signed on to the Strong Cities Network, a forum for leaders to share best practices and community-based approaches for tackling violent extremism, while the Edmonton and Ottawa police departments are rumoured to be planning their own counter-extremism initiatives.

The York Regional Police are also in the process of hiring a “Counter Violent Extremism Subject Matter Expert” and just two months ago the Calgary Police Service launched ReDirect, which aims to prevent youth from becoming radicalized after several high-profile instances of local youth leaving the country to join ISIS.

One of those young men was Damian Clairmont, who died in January 2014 after going to Syria to fight with ISIS.

His mother, Christianne Boudreau, became an active proponent for stronger initiatives to prevent youth from becoming radicalized and in addition to launching her own family counselling network, Hayat Canada, also helped launch the the Extreme Dialogue video campaign earlier this year.

Boudreau says it’s essential to have someone who can coordinate efforts nationally and help integrate global best practices into domestic, community-based approaches. But she cautions that any coordinator will face the added challenge of having to earn the trust of organizations who may be skeptical of working with the government.

“I think the biggest difficulty is the diversity of the various organizations and helping them connect — there’s inter-faith, there’s the authorities and everybody else involved, and right now [there’s] the trust factor with the authorities, with the government,” she said, noting that any national coordinator should also be prepared to work with international partners as well as domestic ones to learn and adapt best practices.

“It’s integral to help bring the groups together to help cross those barriers, to help foster the diversity that’s there and help everybody get along.”

Experts say Liberal counter-radicalization office should bridge, not drive, regional efforts

Investigation shows cracks in Canada’s plan to stop homegrown terrorism

More indications of the gap in the Government’s anti-radicalization strategy:

Federal authorities argue they are tackling the problem in a number of ways, by enhancing enforcement powers, toughening laws and developing strategies to counter terrorist propaganda.

But with gaps in programs to prevent radicalization, grassroots communities across Canada have stepped up, using their own time and money to stop young people from reaching the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.

“We Canadians have been scared into believing that there are locust-like masses” of terrorists, says Hussein Hamdani, who’s helped with 10 intervention cases of young would-be terrorists, and sat on the government’s terrorism advisory panel for a decade.

“All this rhetoric, and there seems to be no corresponding investment in prevention.”

Instead of being given counselling or mentorship, he argues Canadian youth at risk of radicalization are largely ignored, left to watch videos glorifying their compatriots abroad.

… Security experts such as Phil Gurski say Canada is at risk of losing the battle for the hearts and minds of at-risk youth, without improved efforts to combat the underlying message of violent extremists.

“The Islamic State has a lot going for it. It’s got territory, it’s got quasi-religious authority,” says Gurski, who spent 12 years as a Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent and has specialized in al-Qaida-inspired radicalization for three decades.

Others like Blaney argue Canada has a solid record of deterring attacks and thwarting terrorist travel, but it’s hard to deny ISIL’s momentum.

…“There’s a sense of purpose, there’s a sense of addressing historical grievances,” Gurski explains. “That’s why people are flocking to it — that’s why it’s got 20,000 foreign fighters.”


… But how big is the threat?

By last October, the RCMP flagged 80 Canadians as having returned after supporting groups like ISIL abroad.

Source: Investigation shows cracks in Canada’s plan to stop homegrown terrorism | Calgary Herald

Treating Saudi Arabian Jihadists With Art Therapy

Saudi Arabia’s deradicalization program using art therapy, with reasonably good results (only 20 percent failure rate). Kind of interesting to be using art in a place where it is generally frowned upon:

“They’re not so tough,” says Dr. Awad Al-Yami, a counselor here. “These are our kids, and anyway, they are members of our society, and they are hurting us. We feel obligated to help them.”

Al-Yami trained as an art therapist at the University of Pennsylvania. He pioneered an innovative program that’s unusual in Saudi’s ultra-conservative culture, where some clerics say that drawing is forbidden.

“I had a hard time convincing my people with art, let alone art therapy for jihadists,” he says.

But the program has delivered results.

“Actually, art creates balance for your psyche,” he says.

It is also a window on the psyche, he says. Drawing is a way for inmates to express emotions, anger and depression, when they first arrive at the center.

He keeps a gallery of paintings, which he analyzes like a detective. The black and white landscapes, which depict scenes from Afghanistan, mean an inmate is still living in the past.

After a few months of counseling, the paintings show more promise. Inmates use color and depict scenes from family life in Riyadh. Al-Yami says this is a sign that the inmate is coming to terms with coming home.

There is a striking number of inmates who draw pictures of castles with high walls. Those send a distinct message, according to Al-Yami.

“I’m not going to give you any information,” he says. “I’m behind the wall and you can’t get through. If I give you information, I am weak.”

He takes the failures hard. Some 20 percent of the inmates here go back to the fight. One spectacular failure went on to become an al-Qaida leader in Yemen.

Now, Al-Yami is preparing for a new wave of inmates: the ISIS generation. He knows they are more extreme than al-Qaida.

“We’ve got some in prison, waiting for their sentences to be over and they will be here,” he says.

Treating Saudi Arabian Jihadists With Art Therapy : Parallels : NPR.

Family, friends of radicalized persons wary of reporting: experts

Some of the challenges in encouraging families and friends to play a greater part in de-radicalization:

Part of the problem is that friends and family members of individuals who are radicalized believe their only resort is to report their loved one to the police, which might then lead to criminal charges, according to Dr. Lorne Dawson, a terrorist radicalization expert and professor of sociology at the University of Waterloo.

“They (family members) have conflicting loyalties. They don’t know where to report the individual except for the police and they don’t want to be responsible for their loved one being arrested.”

As well, he says, family members may not take the threat seriously. “Maybe the person has a reputation for being over-the-top, or exaggerating things, or being rather extreme in their judgment and views on things.”

Calling the authorities is not ideal for a family that believes it may simply have an emotionally strung-out individual on their hands, he says.

Staff Sgt. David Zackrias heads the Diversity and Race Relations Section of the Ottawa Police Service, which aims to provide outreach and build bridges between police and diverse ethnic communities in Ottawa. He’s also the vice co-chair on the policing side of the Community and Police Action Committee (COMPAC), a community-police advisory body in Ottawa that meets once a month.

He urges family and community members to report an individual who is seemingly in the early stages of radicalization so the person can get help before a violent threshold is crossed.

“If public safety is in jeopardy, we need to make sure the right people are notified,” he says. “But if this is something that we could work with in terms of engagement and there’s an issue with a certain person who is in the infancy stage of being radicalized, then we engage the community and address those issues and share what resources are out there in the community.”

Such community resources may include a psychiatrist or social worker with the skills to help the person address the issue.

Most of Zackrias’ work within the Muslim community involves taking part in panel discussions with imams and Muslim community leaders, in which their concerns and grievances are brought forward.

“When the community comes and informs us about certain things in terms of they’re concerned that certain people are coming to town and giving hate speech, we provide them with the information to make an informed decision,” he says.

Last year, Public Safety initiated a strategy for countering violent extremism with a major focus on engaging and interacting with communities and individuals in order to research the root causes of terrorism and how to combat them, according to the department’s website.

Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a non-partisan international governance think-tank based in Waterloo, Ont., says one of the biggest challenges facing a CVE strategy is building trust between communities and law enforcement.

“The RCMP and different municipal police forces have worked with vulnerable communities and leaders,” she said. “They’ve reached out and some of these programs are really fantastic.”

As well, she says that having an open dialogue among family members about the risks of extremism is vital, because young people are adept at hiding their lives on the Internet from others, and many people may not believe that radicalization could happen in their own homes.

“Having parents and families involved is a really important tool for not only deradicalization but also in preventing wannabe foreign fighters. Like any social problem, dialogue, bringing it to the fore, and having a conversation can be helpful,” she said.

According to a Dec. 2013 study in the Journal of Forensic Science of 119 lone-actors who engaged in or planned to commit acts of terrorism in the United States and Europe, in about 64 per cent of cases friends and family members knew of the individual’s intent to commit terrorism-related acts because the individual had verbally told them.

In more than 65 per cent of the cases, the individual expressed intent to hurt or harm others while in almost 80 per cent of the cases, others knew of the individual’s commitment to an extremist ideology. These findings suggest “friends and family can play important roles in efforts that seek to prevent terrorist plots.”

Of course, recent federal government messaging makes it harder for this kind of outreach and engagement.

Family, friends of radicalized persons wary of reporting: experts | Ottawa Citizen.

‘Soft security’ measures also needed to battle home-grown radicalism, experts say

More coverage of the work by Lorne Dawson and Dan Hiebert on the need for greater emphasis on anti-radicalization and de-radicalization programming, the softer yet necessary prevention programming:

It would take an immense public education effort and support for families and Muslim communities to have difficult conversations, to provide support and resources. Dawson draws the comparison to how we now approach suicide. Just as parents and teachers should never ignore a 14- or 15-year-old who says he’s going to kill himself, Canadians have to respond to young people espousing sympathetic feelings for extremist ideologies from the get-go.

“If someone says, ‘Anyone who is not a Sunni is a kuffar and they should all be killed,’ that’s not a line you let pass. The trouble is if your only recourse right now is to phone the police or the RCMP, it’s not going to happen,” says Dawson.

That’s because the Canadian government has chosen to focus on “hard security” — boosting investigative powers, intelligence gathering, arrest powers. There is no provision in the Conservative government’s massive anti-terror Bill C-51 to provide new resources for de-radicalization programs — the kind of “soft security” measures that Dawson, Hiebert and others say are key.

By that they mean interventions involving law enforcement, teachers, social workers and psychiatrists — resources that are woefully lacking at the moment for Muslim communities across Canada, the Senate committee has heard.

The researchers say Ottawa should look to other countries, pointing to a program in Britain called Channel that draws in police, social workers, psychiatrists and teachers “to deal with the other aspects of that person’s life that need to be fixed, to get them to divert from that path towards radicalization and violence.”

“That’s expensive, but, again: an ounce of prevention, a pound of cure.”

And they urged continued funding for research projects such as theirs. “We don’t adequately understand radicalization yet,” said Dawson. “To put it in simple terms, we’re very worried . . . . If you don’t have a fine enough conception of what’s causing the problem, it’s difficult to develop the most effective counter measures.”

‘Soft security’ measures also needed to battle home-grown radicalism, experts say | Toronto Star.

And a good interview with Dawson:

The lure of terrorism: Q&A with cult expert Lorne Dawson (with video)

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.​

http://www.torontosun.com/2014/12/11/john-maguire—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 – Macleans.ca

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?

ISIS fighter from Ottawa appears in video threatening Canada with attacks ‘where it hurts you the most’

The latest ISIS recruitment video, starring John Maguire from Ottawa (see earlier profile on Maguire’s troubled past in  Ottawa jihadi seeking ‘martyrdom’ with ISIS in Syria | Ottawa Citizen):

“It follows quite closely to the theme of a variety of videos aimed at Western audiences, like the video aimed at French Muslims a few weeks ago,” said Professor Amarnath Amarasingam of the Dalhousie University Resilience Research Centre, who is studying Canadian foreign fighters.

“The interrelated themes are of course ones of religious obligation: if a caliphate has been established and Muslims have been persecuted by the state you are living in, you are required to leave the state you are living in. The risk of staying is hellfire. Maguire’s video is similar to the video aimed at French Muslims, asking a simple question: what are you waiting for?”

The video refers repeatedly to the October killings of two Canadian Forces members in Quebec and Ottawa by men who had adopted Islamist extremist beliefs. It said the attacks were a “direct response” to Canada’s military role in Iraq.

“The more bombs you drop on our people, the more Muslims will realize and understand that today, waging jihad against the West and its allies around the world is beyond a shadow of the doubt a religious obligation binding upon every Muslim.”

ISIS fighter from Ottawa appears in video threatening Canada with attacks ‘where it hurts you the most’.

John Maguire, Ottawa man fighting for ISIS, urges attacks on Canadian targets in video

And good in-depth reporting on deradicalization programs in Germany and Denmark in the Globe:

 Reversing radicalization through anti-terror ‘psychological warfare’ 

Deradicalization programs aim to get ahead of the curve in stopping extremists

Good overview on various deradicalization programs (and the absence of Canadian ones), and the challenge of measuring their effectiveness:

While there is greater interest in deradicalization programs, questions remain about their effectiveness.

McCants at the Brookings Institution acknowledges that the Saudi program has had some success in turning detainees into productive members of society, but “whether they’ve left the ideology behind is a harder question to answer.”

The Saudi government has acknowledged some of the graduates of its deradicalization program have returned to extremist activity, including one who became deputy commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Brian Jenkins, a counterterrorism expert at the Rand Corporation, says that while a lot of things are being tried, the success of deradicalization strategies is notoriously difficult to measure.

According to a story published in the Christian Science Monitor in July, Hayat Berlin had steered 20 individuals from fighting in Syria. But even if they had proceeded to the front lines, it doesn’t necessarily mean they would have returned to wage attacks at home.

“Is there some comparative statistic that says, does this particular technique work, did that particular technique work? I havent seen anything that tells me that,” says Jenkins. “The statistics aren’t there.”

Part of that may be deliberately hedging on the part of the governments involved, says Jenkins, but it also reflects the fact that while its easy to keep statistics on criminal incidents, “its hard to count things that don’t occur.”

Deradicalization programs aim to get ahead of the curve in stopping extremists – CBC News – Latest Canada, World, Entertainment and Business News.