The session was part of the ICT's 16th World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: "Unpuzzling Terrorism". Terrorism is a consequence of radicalization and therefore preventing radicalization should be at the forefront of any counter-terrorism strategy. Each individual experiences the radicalization process differently, which substantially complicates any plan to counter radicalization. A pressing issue regarding radicalization is the handling of extremely radical inmates within the prison system to ensure they do not influence susceptible portions of the prison population. There are previous situations where states have dealt with extremist movements (IRA in the UK, etc.), which offer telling insights as we move forward to combat Islamic radicalization within detention centers.
Chair: Mr. Michael Whine, Director, Government & International Affairs, Community Security Trust (CST), United Kingdom
Opening Remarks: Dr. Liza Saban, Deputy Dean, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy, IDC Herzliya, Israel
Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Orit Adato, Associate, ICT, IDC Herzliya & Former Commissioner, Israeli Prison Services (IPS), Israel
Dr. Matthew De Michele, Research Sociologist, RTI International, Center for Justice, Safety and Resilience, Research Triangle Park, United States of America
Ms. Raheel Raza, President, Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada
Prof. Alex P. Schmid, Director, Terrorism Research Initiative (TRI); Research Fellow, International Centre for Counter Terrorism (ICCT) & Member of the Professional Advisory Board, ICT, IDC Herzliya, The Netherlands
Dr. Sagit Yehoshua, Research Fellow, ICT, IDC Herzliya, Israel
The workshop ‘Pathways to De-Radicalization’ focused on the general topic of methods and de-radicalization programs that are employed to mitigate the radicalization of potential extremists and would-be terrorists. With the diverging professional and regional backgrounds of the panelists, the workshop provided a broad insight into the various social environments in which radicalization may occur and what has been done or ought to be done to counteract these processes. Hereby, the respective panelists focused on the general concepts of radicalization as well as very specific contexts in which radicalization can take place, such as within prisons. The panelists focused on the potential de-radicalization of Muslim extremists as this continues to be the most pressing issue in the field.
Mr. Whine, the chair of the workshop, introduced the discussion with an overall summary of the issue, highlighting the various methods in which extremists are radicalized and the implications this has on the prospects of de-radicalization. Each individual who has undergone radicalization will have done so through different means and out of diverging motivations, such as, grievances, perceived marginalization, mental health issues, or the need of belonging. Consequently, just as there is no single process of radicalization, there can be no universally applicable template for the mitigation thereof. These complexities are further exacerbated by the enhancement of social media, which has provided extremists with unprecedented means to communicate and a platform to command and control their external operations. Mr. Whine thus concluded with the need for policy makers to avoid ‘broad brush’ approaches and to acknowledge these aforementioned difficulties.
Professor Schmid gave his presentation on ‘Challenging De-Radicalization by Rethinking Radicalization.’ As a ‘problem well-defined is a problem half solved,’ Professor Schmid scrutinized the broad conceptualization of radicalization and thereby also de-radicalization, which have not been clearly defined in theory. At the core of the problem Professor Schmid identified the association of radicalization with radicalism (rather than extremism), the one-sided use of the term for non-state actors, the exclusive focus on the micro level (i.e. the individual), and the shift of the connotation of radicalism throughout history.
Schmid attempted to re-conceptualize the idea of radicalization to include his criticism in order to make the concept a useful tool. He concluded with five recommendations for de-radicalization: education, a critical comparison of the world religions, exposing logical contradictions within extremist narratives, exposing ‘say-do’ gaps of extremist leaders, and presenting alternative models (Good Lives Model).
Ms. Raheel Raza focused her analysis solely on radical Islam, which she states has led to a global jihadist insurgency and is arguably the most pressing issue. Ms. Raza provided a broad outline of the countless types of extremists and the issues that have helped facilitate them, such as ‘naïve’ lawmakers, who have been unable to address the issues as they should be addressed. According to Ms. Raza, terrorism should be understood as a by-product of radicalization; therefore, the tackling of radicalization should be at the core of any effort, which should focus on both a military and a political approach. Nevertheless, the solution that Ms. Raza ultimately offered was at the grass-root level. It is everyone’s responsibility to ‘name and shame’ radicals on social media, ‘avoid political correctness,’ and employ moderate Muslims as the frontline against radical Islam.
Adato gave a presentation on the prospect of de-radicalization within prisons, utilizing her experience as the former Commissioner of the Israeli Prison Services (IPS). Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Adato raised awareness of the general issues that authorities are confronted with when dealing with extremists in prisons. She began by addressing the pros and cons of separate and integrated housing. In other words, whether radical inmates who have been convicted on terrorism charges should be housed together or separately. The problems that could arise in the wrong handling of radical inmates is that ‘mega terrorists’ could radicalize their less extreme counterparts, who are already susceptible to radicalization due to their grievances. Adato continued with a generic recruiting process among prisoners, followed by possible methods of de-radicalization for separate and integrated housing, such as, whether inmates should be housed according to classifications and their perceived level of risk, identification of vulnerable inmates, who will be introduced in certain de-radicalization programs. The first priority in dealing with this phenomenon should be preventing radicalization and recruitment, the second priority should be trying to de-radicalize terror inmates.
Dr. Sagit Yehoshua picked up on the questions that were raised by Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Adato, providing a perspective from the UK prison system. She began with the history of IRA prisoners in the UK and what lessons could be learned for the incarceration of Islamist extremists as these prisoners have been treated the same as their IRA counterparts despite a different set of threats posed within this group of radicals. Furthermore, Dr. Yehoshua also raised Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Adato’s question whether the inmates ought to be kept together or held separately. She concluded that the UK needs to learn to adjust the incarceration methods from the outdated IRA model. Such adjustments could include the isolation of influential prisoners, suitable theological training to staff, and the monitoring of Muslim prison chaplains.