Taking the ‘Jihad’ Out of Radicals Will Not Work, Just Ask France

“The report concluded that deradicalization, either in specialized centers or prisons, does not work because most Islamic radicals do not want deradicalization…”

Recently, France released a report on their initiative to deprogram radicalized jihadists. The report, titled “Deindoctrination, Derecruitment, and Reintegration of Jihadists in France and Europe”, was submitted to the French Senate Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on February 22, 2017.

The critical report illuminates the plan to build 13 deradicalization centers known as “Centers for Prevention, Integration, and Citizenship” (CPIC).  The plan is to place one center in each of France’s metropolitan regions, with an aim to deradicalize would-be jihadists at the cost of €42m.

France’s plan, first proposed in May of 2016, called for each center to host a maximum of 25 individuals, aged 18 to 30, for a period of ten months.  The government projected 3,600 radicalized individuals would enter these centers over the next two years.

But that is not how it worked out.  The first and only deradicalization center, housed in the isolated 18th-century manor Château de Pontourny, opened in September 2016.  After just five months of operation, Pontourny is now empty, even though it employs 27 professionals at a cost of €2.5m a year.

The Results

The expensive program has been a complete failure.  Senator Philippe Bas, the head of the Senate committee that commissioned the report, recently described the government’s deradicalization program: “It is a total fiasco. Everything must be rethought; everything must be redesigned from scratch.”

France is home to over 8,000 hard-core radicalized Islamists, but only 17 people applied to the deradicalization program.  Of those, only nine showed up, and not one completed the program.  In the inquiry, French experts came up with an astounding revelation as to why the program was not working.

The report concluded that deradicalization, either in specialized centers or prisons, does not work because most Islamic radicals do not want deradicalization.  Wow, what a blinding flash of the obvious.

France’s “deradicalization” program is not the only one in existence.  Other countries have approached the issue of Radicalized Islamic Terrorism (RIT) in similar ways.

The German government has spent €400,000 on a deradicalization program that has shown little success.  Germany’s Interior Ministry unveiled the nation’s deradicalization program at the end of last year.  Named the “Anti-Salafism Network,” the program engages counselors to work with people who are radicalized.  Salafists follow the austere ultraconservative brand of Sunni Islam practiced by Saudi Arabia and other jihadists.

Research by Der Funkstreifzug showed the majority of Salafists have no desire to be deradicalized.  It noted that because the anti-Salafism programs rely on voluntary compliance, their effects are very limited for people who have fought in Syria.

In the United Kingdom, the Channel program is designed to pinpoint and mentor individuals at risk of being drawn into extremism before they engage in terrorist activity.  It is also working to deprogram British citizens returning from fighting abroad.  It is mandatory to participate in the deradicalization program for all returning militants.

Denmark offers returning militants rehabilitation programs instead of bringing criminal charges against them.  As an alternative to prosecution, intelligence agencies work with the government to reintegrate jihadists into society.  After Belgium, Denmark has the second highest number of citizens leaving to fight in Syria. The Danish Parliament allocated €9m for deradicalization programs to rehabilitate radicals, as well as prevent Danes from joining extremist movements.

In the US, the “Ground Zero” of terror recruitment is Minnesota’s Twin Cities.  A terror deradicalization program in the city failed after just a few months.  The program, developed after a federal court released 19-year-old terror suspect Abdullahi Yusuf, a Somali, to a halfway house earlier this year.  Yusuf was arrested at the Minneapolis airport while on his way to Syria via Turkey.  One of his accomplices, Abdi Nur, made it to Syria and now serves as an active recruiter for ISIS.

Even harsher tactics of imprisonment, such as the US facility at GITMO, do not show any real signs of converting or reintegrating radical Islamic terrorists.  The numbers just don’t point to success.

Only a few of the world’s deradicalization programs are mentioned in this article; nevertheless, the common denominator is failure.  Since jihadists do not want to be deradicalized, there is no hope for success.  It is evident deradicalization programs and initiatives are doomed to the scrap heap of wishful thinking.

Jon Harris is an OpsLens contributor and former Army NCO, civilian law enforcement officer, and defense contractor with over 30 years in the law enforcement community. He holds a B.S. in Government and Politics and an M.S. in Criminal Justice.

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