The passports of detained U.S. Muslims are displayed by Pakistani police in Sargodha, Pakistan, Jan. 4, 2010. The defense lawyer for the 5 Americans detained in Pakistan has denied that his clients planned to carry out terrorist attacks.
"Toward a Radical Solution"
Magazine or Newspaper Article, Foreign Policy
January 5, 2010
Author: Lorenzo Vidino, Former Research Fellow, Initiative on Religion in International Affairs/International Security Program, 2009–2010
A recent surge of homegrown terrorist plots has renewed interest in designing a U.S. counter-radicalization program. Here are 10 lessons that the United States should keep in mind.
"The case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who attempted to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day by detonating explosives hidden in his underwear, highlights the dangers posed by Islamist extremism — and the difficulties of countering radicalization. Abdulmutallab, the son of a prominent Nigerian banker and a former student at University College London, proves that there is no single path that would-be terrorists travel and no single reason they resort to violence. As countries worldwide look to design counter-radicalization programs to mitigate the threat of homegrown terrorist attacks, they should draw on the experiences of the countries that first implemented these programs.
It is not just the Abdulmutallab incident that has spurred interest within the United States in counter-radicalization programs. A wave of recent terrorism-related arrests has severely undermined the long-held assumption that American Muslims are immune to radicalization. Events such as the arrest of five northern Virginia Muslims allegedly seeking terrorist training in Pakistan, the thwarting of three separate plots in New York, Texas, and Illinois this past September, the Fort Hood massacre, and federal charges against eight Somali-American men in Minnesota for crimes including fighting alongside the terrorist group al-Shabab have made this issue a top priority for U.S. law enforcement. Having accepted that radicalization affects some small segments of the American Muslim population exactly like it affects some fringe pockets of the Muslim population of each European country, authorities have been looking for long-term solutions to the problem.
Potential U.S. counter-radicalization efforts are most likely to resemble the programs implemented in various European countries. Over the last few years, Britain and the Netherlands have led the pack, investing significant human, financial, and political capital in their programs. Initiatives include interfaith meetings, the creation of Muslim magazines and TV programs, government-sponsored lectures from moderate Muslim clerics, field trips to Auschwitz, professional development seminars, and soccer matches with police officers. Most of these initiatives fall within the realm of radicalization prevention, but European authorities have also developed small deradicalization programs for individuals who have already been radicalized and, in some cases, have been involved in terrorist activities.
Everybody acknowledges that these programs are very much work in progress — novelties in need of constant assessment and improvement. Nobody knows for sure the impact they have had so far. There are nevertheless some lessons that U.S. authorities should keep in mind should they decide to launch their own full-fledged counter-radicalization program...."
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