Combating Radicalization

Individuals who have become radicalized are ordinary people like you and me.  Anyone can be radicalized to varying degrees of ease or difficulty.  The process of radicalization doesn’t always involve willingness to commit violent acts and can affect people from all religions and non-religious backgrounds.  In many cases in modern history, people are inspired to commit acts of violence, especially among Muslim youth in politically unstable countries or westerners with criminal records or concerned about Muslims in war torn countries.

Deradicalization programs are multifaceted and portions of them are often intended to be an important tool to combat radicalization before an individual acts out and commits a crime.  Some elements within deradicalization programs may include more of an “intervention” as well as after conviction rehabilitation.

It’s important to understand that extremism and radicalization is not a “Muslim” only problem.  In fact, in the United States since September 11, 2001, twice as many people were killed rightwing extremists than by extremist Muslims.  The programs are not necessarily directed at Muslims and often deal with far right extremism as well.  Neither is extremism always terrorism, but often brings about physical and emotional abuse.

However, with regards to terrorism prevention, law enforcement and the Muslim community have a lot of work to do to go towards establishing mutual trust in many countries.  Where Islam is misused in extremist ideology, the programs have to be more than calling a crime prevention hotline where the case is referred to law enforcement.  It must also include active Muslim community cooperation to present a viable narrative countering extremist ideology.  Youth programs, new revert integration programs, religious counselling programs and grass roots outreach are great common sense methods to utilize.  The answer for this narrative exists already within modern religious scholarship, not “reform” or changing the religion to appease anti-Islam hate, fear and criticism.

There are many things that can be done to establish trust between us and law enforcement.  One of the ways Muslims and law enforcement agencies can begin is by hosting officers and agents skilled at engaging kids of all ages in schools.  When I was a kid, we commonly had law enforcement and fire fighters attend each of our school classrooms once a year to talk with us.  It was a great trust builder and dispelled many myths.  One of these types of programs that I organised as a volunteer in a Muslim school was a huge success.  It’s a great way to dispel mutual fears and mistrust, not just in the short term but the long term.

There is a process of radicalisation and religious doctrinal justification to counter radicalism that leads to violence.  Our religious, social and civic communities must work together to bring forth these law abiding and peaceful concepts. Boxing in ordinary Muslims (practicing or not) into the “terrorist” religion camp that has no value or compatibility in western society only marginalizes Muslims and creates distrust, anger and acting out. Ultimately this is fertile grounds for radicalization and extremist group recruitment.

It is a fallacious argument to claim to be against Islam because one feels it is incompatible with western values and society and at the same time claim to be against Islamic terrorism.  The former supposition paves the way for the latter.