‘Laser’ episode discusses de-radicalisation and studies on the brain of jihadist supporters (Swiss National Radio)
What is de-radicalisation about? What do these programmes deal with, and what do they imply?
often with an individual, when you’ve taken them through this, and they no longer belong to ISIS or al -Qaeda or another jihadist orientation (…) their identity is broken. They’re no longer this ‘warrior fighting against the world’, so where do they belong? Their connection to morality is also separated now, because their previous kind of black-and-white moral perspective has been shattered; they do not necessarily have a sense of morality. All of these things need to be replaced, they need to be reintegrated in terms of their self-identity, their sense of belonging, their socialisation; their moral perspective needs to be reintegrated in a wider, societal perspective (Rashad Ali)
How do the brains of extremists and jihadist supporters react to specific situations or social experiments? What do their scans tell us?
Which factors can precipitate radicalisation, and which ones help disengagement?
LISTEN TO THE ‘LASER’ EPISODE ‘DERADICALIZZAZIONE. DENTRO LA MENTE JIHADISTA’ (aired on 22nd September by Swiss-Italian Radio – RSI)
Chiara Sulmoni meets Rashad Ali, a practitioner and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in London, who works on de-radicalisation initiatives in the context of prisons, probation and the wider community; and Nafees Hamid (Research Fellow at Artis International and Associate Fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism), who’ll explain the results of neuroscientific studies he conducted in Spain on the brain of jihadist supporters and whose conclusions scientifically confirm how social exclusion plays an important role in radicalisation, while social influence can ‘reactivate’ deliberate reasoning and help disengage from violence.
Further to the topics discussed in the documentary, here’s another take by Nafees Hamid:
“We have a tendency to overfocus on the individual: how can we build individual capacity to be more preventative of radicalisation, how do we teach people how to think critically, and so forth…. While radicalisation manifests at the individual level, it originally emanates at the community level, so when you see radicalisation happening, it’s clustering -geographically clustering-. Usually it’s just a few neighbourhoods in any country that produce the bulk of recruits into any terrorist group. There is clearly something happening in certain communities that make them more vulnerable. One of the things is lack of social cohesion, people do not really have a strong sense of belonging, purpose, identity, which make them an easy picking for terrorist groups to recruit. So while we are spending so much time on individual capacity building and counter-messaging, I think we could be focussing more on what I call ‘counter-engagement’.
the reason why terrorist groups are appealing to a lot of people, is because they are offering them engagement in a meaningful cause, they are offering them something to do. (…) If we want to prevent people, throwing nice messages their way is not going to be enough -or even mentorship-. You should probably give them alternative pathways for meaning and purpose
The reason why terrorist groups become appealing to a lot of people, is because they are offering them engagement in a meaningful cause, they are offering them something to do; you can get up off your couch, you can go and become a foreign fighter somewhere, you can become a smuggler, you can proselitize other people, you can promote the movement, you can do a variety of things with your life, that will give your life purpose and meaning through action. So if we want to prevent people, just throwing nice messages their way is not going to be enough, or even mentorship; you should probably give them alternative pathways for meaning and purpose. So if this basic, fundamental need to be an agent of social change, to want to engage in meaningful behaviour, if this need can be satisfied at the community level -whether it’s through community centres or schools, or any other possible avenue that gives people a sense of purpose, not just a job or a source of income but a real sense of purpose- you are offering them a pathway to purpose so that they don’t have to turn to extremist groups.