Who knew all it took was a hug from us infidels?
In Aarhus, Denmark’s second largest city, authorities are using a method referred to by some as the “hug a terrorist” or “hug a jihadi” model of de-radicalization.
They are trying to change the minds of potential Islamic extremists by supporting them and offering them kindness rather than treating them as outcasts and criminals.
“The program has been referred by some in the media as the ‘hug a terrorist’ model of deradicalisation. So far, it’s been remarkably effective.
In this week’s Dateline, reporter Evan Williams meets Jamal*, who several years ago says he was so angry with society he almost became a terrorist.
Jamal’s extremist views started developing after a high school debate on Islam. Jamal vehemently defended his religion against his classmates. But the teacher interpreted something he said as a threat and the school referred Jamal to the police.
The ordeal resulted in Jamal getting suspended from school, and his home raided by police. He told Dateline that he was made to feel like a criminal, when he hadn’t broken the law. As a result he surrounded himself with other young Muslims who shared his feelings of isolation. They watched radical sermons online and talked of jihad. Before long, they were planning to leave Denmark for Pakistan.
“In my mind I was like, ‘they treated me as a terrorist. If they want a terrorist, they will get a terrorist’,” he says.
But a phone call from one police officer changed everything for Jamal.
The officer apologised, telling Jamal his case was handled poorly, and asked if he would meet with a Muslim mentor. At first Jamal was suspicious of the offer, but agreed to meet the mentor.
After several meetings and long conversations about the unique difficulties of being Muslim in Denmark, Jamal began reconsider his views. All it took was someone to reach out and offer empathy and understanding. In Jamal’s case, a punitive, disciplinary response from authorities to suspicions he was becoming radicalised, only further radicalised him. What turned him away from extremism was the offer of an open hand.”
Read the rest of this “remarkably effective” program here.