Assessing the effectiveness of deradicalization programs for Islamist extremists
Johnston, Amanda K.
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In recent counterterrorism efforts, several states have embarked on a new approach to the problem of countering radicalization of imprisoned extremists. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Singapore have all implemented ideological-based deradicalization programs that attempt to change the ideologies held by these extremists and eventually allow for their release from prison and reintegration into normal society. Many factors seen in the deradicalization process are similar to those found in disengagement from a variety of other anti-social behaviors, including joining gangs, cults, and racist groups. They include engaging in ideological discussions, offering avenues for reintegration, and using family and peers as alternative networks of support to replace the radical milieu of extremism. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Indonesia have each utilized some of these deradicalization techniques with varying degrees of success. Additionally, each country has approached the deradicalization process in a different way. Six general lessons emerge from these cases: success depends on the availability of: (1) adequate funding, (2) reform within the prison structure, (3) use of knowledgeable and well-respected Islamic clerics, (4) incorporation of cultural norms, (5) provision of monetary support to families of detainees, and (6) follow through with after-care programs.
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