ome police friends rejected my suggestion (Indian Mujahideen, The Sunday Guardian, 8 July 2012) on the need to start a "de-radicalisation" programme in India. One friend, who should have known better, said that it was a "western idea". They would not have doubted the need had they studied some recent domestic trends: little boys in the Kashmir valley being recruited or Abu Jundal confessing to recruitments through Facebook. "De-radicalisation" has been attempted by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Holland and Denmark with varying degrees of success. I would recommend to them the study of a 2008 publication, Winning Hearts & Minds by the Khadija Mosque (Singapore), the "Rand" study De-radicalizing Islamist Extremists (2010-11) and the recently released William Webster Commission Report on the 2009 Fort Hood killings.
All over the world, the need for going beyond security and intelligence measures to tackle growing domestic militancy, which aids international terrorism, is generally accepted. No one has described the need better than James Kitfield (2006): "Global insurgency reacts to Osama bin Laden's radical ideology almost like distant and seemingly disconnected light particles respond in unison to an unseen wave." The idea is to wean away marginally affected persons from militancy or even attempting the hard core into changing their beliefs through "disengagement" with a limited objective of making persons concerned changing their behaviour and stop supporting violence, although not necessarily changing their beliefs; or "de-radicalisation", which means changing beliefs and rejecting extremist ideology. Needless to say, the second strand is difficult to achieve. This is also because some countries believe that radicalism is not a crime. To quote Judge Webster's report, "Radicalism is not a crime. Radicalization alone, without incitement to violence, may not constitute a threat."
Over the years, de-radicalisation has been attempted by Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan, etc, with varying degrees of success.
The Yemeni and Saudi programmes are the oldest, started after a 2001 Cairo meeting of Arab interior ministers. The Yemeni programme, which was a failure, was supervised by the "Committee for Religious Dialogue" with Ulema support. In Saudi Arabia, it is organised by the Interior Ministry under a "Prevention, Rehabilitation and After-Care" policy for about 3,000 detainees. Iraq, which started the programme for detainees under the US Army in 2006, claims good results, although new recruits have certainly offset any advantages. It is not known what happened in Egypt and Libya, which saw regime changes.
Singapore started the programme through their Home Ministry with the help of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) after they arrested 13 Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) in December 2001. Eight of them had gone to Afghanistan for training. The Care Services Group (ACG) gives support to the detainees' families through community service bodies to prevent the emergence of second generation extremists. The Rand study says that this is the best de-radicalisation programme. In Malaysia too it is a government-run programme with cleric support. Indonesia runs this scheme through "Detachment-88", which is the ATS of the National Police. Former extremists play a major role here. However, its weakness is that other agencies do not contribute to it. In Thailand and Pakistan, the military operates the de-radicalisation programme.
Although Great Britain had outlined this programme in 2003, it was only after the 7 July 2005 railway bombing that the "CONTEST" strategy by the Home Office with four "P"s (prevent, pursue, protect and prepare) was put in action. CONTEST-2 (2009) gave more importance on "prevent" through bolstering moderate ideology, impeding radicalisation through mosques and schools, supporting vulnerable individuals, empowering young Muslim men and women to resist extremism and reducing discrimination and inequality. This strategy is supported by intelligence, analysis, information and strategic communications. The Dutch plan, which is not exclusively for Muslims, enhances social cohesion and integration of alienated groups through local government, although the Central government (Interior Ministry and Kingdom Relations) perform pivotal roles. The Danish plan launched since 2009 also follows the Dutch scheme to combat all forms of extremism.
The Indonesian experience has revealed that the advantage of all these efforts is better intelligence on radical groups. We totally lack this and indulge only in guesswork. The second advantage is reaching out to the vulnerable groups and giving them an alternative route which is now monopolised by the LeT or Indian Mujahideen. Should we not attempt this?