A global campaign to hit terrorists – in their message

In a contest for values, Turkey and the US are leading a $200 million effort to prevent the radicalization of young Muslims. It can build on successes in the deradicalizing of captured terrorists.

Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor
The Mohammed bin Naif Center for Counseling and Care in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, helps Guantánamo detainees reintegrate into life. The 'beneficiaries' wake up at 7 a.m. daily and take part in a variety of classes ranging from Islamic studies to English to art therapy.

Ever since 9/11, the struggle against terrorists has focused too much on killing them rather than their message. That may change with a new public-private effort to counter the appeal of jihadists with a grass-roots campaign aimed at young and vulnerable Muslims.

On Friday, Turkey and the United States announced plans to raise more than $200 million for a global fund to counter the “local drivers of radicalization to violence.” Much like campaigns against illiteracy or the child sex trade, this one has dozens of countries behind it. A coalition called the Global Counterterrorism Forum will build on the expertise of countries such as Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Indonesia that have successfully “deradicalized” captured terrorists.

Lessons from those rehab programs can be applied by civic groups and governments to prevent radicalization of Muslims. At the heart of these efforts will be moderate Muslims, such as Islamic scholars or former terrorists, who can effectively deliver the message that Islam does not justify the purposeful killing of innocents.

The new global fund will also provide vocational training for disenfranchised youth and provide school courses on conflict resolution. Simply offering alternatives to the kind of extremist ideologies that Muslims find on the Internet or hear in mosques may prevent many of them from joining groups like Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

Not all of the rehab programs in Muslim countries have been successful. Saudi Arabia, which has the longest and best-funded one, claims an 80 percent success rate, as many of the graduates return to radical groups. Singapore, on the other hand, has had 100 percent success.

The Pentagon recently gave $4.5 million to researchers at the University of Maryland to better understand how to “inoculate” young people against terrorist recruiters. Often the incentive of a job or money is enough. In Afghanistan, a program pays low-level Taliban fighters to defect. In other cases, a program will rely on pressure from family members. Sometimes a young person tempted to join a jihadist group will be shown examples of how leaders of those groups are incompetent, unfair, or corrupt.

Most of all, the process is a battle for values, one aimed at convincing young people to find worth in their lives without seeking martyrdom or the killing of others. This is a long struggle but a worthy one. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of drones, spy satellites, and airport security checks.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A global campaign to hit terrorists – in their message
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today