What’s Wrong with These Four Approaches to “Deprogramming” Jihad?

You have to look past what you wish were true.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | August 26, 2016

Let’s say that you wanted to reach the people who carry out murder in the name of jihad, and persuade them not to kill anyone.  How would you do it?  There are four approaches that governments are trying today, and none of them work.

1. Identify likely candidates for radicalization while they are young, and talk them out of it using government propaganda.

The FBI’s “Don’t Be A Puppet” campaign is an example of this.  It aims at young people using an online video game that rewards them for solving problems associated with recognizing attempts to radicalize them.  The hope is to teach them to recognize that they are being manipulated by radical religious figures so that these young people will turn away from those messages.

Because the FBI is a counterintelligence agency using government propaganda, however, it has a serious credibility problem with young people — especially those in the community that the FBI is targeting.  Credibility is the currency in propaganda operations, just as it is in any other attempt to lead or influence or persuade.  If you’re a young Muslim, you can see that the FBI doesn’t trust you, is thinking a lot about you, and is trying to manipulate you.  Secretive government agencies — of the US or any other government — are operating out of a serious deficit compared with any religious leader that the community takes to have a real relationship with God.  While these propaganda efforts are not necessarily a complete waste of time and money, as they might persuade a few who are inclined to view the government positively, the people you really want to reach are likely to take this attempt to manipulate them as further evidence that you don’t trust them — and, therefore, that they shouldn’t trust you either.

2. Treat jihad not as a crime or an act of war, but as a psychological problem.

There are significant moral and legal problems for forcing people into psychological programs designed to alter their religion.  An even bigger problem, though, is that there’s very little evidence that such psychological approaches even work.  Thus, in addition to being government-backed violations of the basic human right to freedom of religion, it’s likely that the approach will only harden opposition among Muslims to the government.  Indeed, there’s a reasonable argument that a government that used these approaches to force your children to change their beliefs would really be creating an actual moral justification for violence.

3. Go to war with “takfiris.”

What about an approach by leaders of factions of Islam to persuade the young? Egypt’s Al Azhar University is attempting that right now.

In a speech to Muslims worldwide and the West, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb had renounced all radical takfiri-inspired actions, saying that such deeds are in no way related to the teachings of Islam’s fundamental Sunni sect….  The top Muslim scholar then confirmed that the sole salvation and solution for such an abomination is the true interpretation and abiding by the true Sunnah teachings of prophet Mohammed (pbuh) and companions.

Allowing that a rejection of “all takfiri-inspired actions” would represent a real improvement, this approach does nothing to solve the problem of jihad against non-Muslims.  Takfiri violence is about declaring other Muslims not to be real Muslims, and thus to be subject to violence as apostates.  The attacks on 9/11, and in places like San Bernardino, Orlando, and Paris, are attacks of jihad against non-Muslims.  The attempt to spread Islam through coercion is a huge part of the problem, and yet in the traditions of Islamic law endorsed by generations of scholars, that is more plausibly a duty than an affront.  A full scale reform of Islam must occur to change that, one that sets aside all of its existing factions for a new way.

4. Divide and conquer.

The Russian government appears to be approaching the problem in this way.  They are backing Iran and Assad against Sunni groups in a manner designed to set various Islamic groups against one another.  There is also a propaganda campaign designed to push the idea that a kind of socialism designed to govern Islam was the real answer to violence.  This campaign paints the United States as the real enemy of Islam (and therefore not Russia), as the United States opposed socialist Islam and Russia supported it.

Divide and conquer does not reduce violence, however, it increases it.  The hope is that it will become manageable not because people stop fighting, but because they expend most of their energy fighting one another.  In terms of the number of people convinced that violent jihad must govern their lives, however, that number will greatly increase if we follow such a strategy.

Ultimately none of these answers work, though in the third answer we at least get a glimpse of a solution that might.  Pushing a real reform of Islam, one that sets aside all existing categories and all traditional schools of thought, at least has the potential for putting an end to the violence.  So far, however, that approach is the purview of only a tiny minority of Muslims.  No government, Islamic nor Western, has endorsed the program.



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