Counter-radicalisation is a Holistic Measure implemented ahead of time before violent ideology takes root. This measure is the preferred one by some religious people, community organisers and some politicians. But how effective can it be? Let's start the debate and see.
An article titled “Taking Jihad to School – French Programs Emphasize Secularism”, by Abigail R. Esman, explains how France – since the recent terrorist attacks in Paris – is focused on countering the radicalisation of the Muslim youth through the teaching of secularism:
'Since 2012, for instance, the Catholic University of Lyon has offered classes on secularism for imams and other Muslims working in the civic sphere. In the wake of the January attacks, according to recent reports by Elisabeth Bryant, France plans to make such education mandatory across the country, enrolling "hundreds of imams," along with "chaplains working in prisons or the military." Prisons are known to be hotbeds for radical Islam and recruiting for jihad; Coulibaly converted to radical Islam while serving time in Fleury-Mérogis Prison, as did Cherif Kouachi, one of the two brothers who carried out the Jan. 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Even more significant, France now is taking its war against radical Islam and racism to the schools, from teacher training to the addition of courses in secularism and ethics to the standard school curriculum. It is an initiative the rest of Europe – and the United States – would be well-advised to consider as well.”'
This French endeavour presents a serious problem: it may be in contempt of Islam. This belief system states that secularism is Kufr (unbelief):
“Secularism is based on separating religion from all the affairs of this life and hence, it rules by law and regulations other than Allah's laws. Hence, secularism rejects Allah's rules with no exception and prefers regulations other than Allah's and His Messenger's. In fact, many secularists claim that Allah's laws might have been suitable for the time they were revealed but are now outdated. As a result, most of the laws governing the daily affairs of life in the countries ruled by secular systems contradict Islam.” (source)
What was/is the French Catholic University, in Lyon, trying to do; encourage French Imams to revolutionise Islam from without (i.e. in the diaspora)? In this case, counter-radicalisation can be equated to some sort of coercion: if you want to live in peace in our midst, you have to change Islam or change the way Islam is practised in the West. A priori, it sounds like a good plan; but even this poses a severe problem, especially when Muslims pray facing Mecca, in Saudi Arabia – the Supreme Minaret – a country that professes the “purest” form of Islam. But even though the French Imams are willing to participate in the secularism classes, what guarantees do we have that they have the authority to practise a different kind of Islam? What message are they sending Saudi Arabia? Furthermore, what kind of precedents does this holistic measure open?
France, with its holistic act, may be stirring a hornet's nest – the Catholic University has been lecturing Imams, and community organisers, on secularism and ethics since 2012 (overlooking, thus, a stark difference between Christianity and Islam [secularism does not hold the first in contempt] and suggesting there's no ethics in Islam). How many Islamic terrorist attacks has France suffered since that year? 14 (6 in 2012; 2 in 2013; 2 in 2014; 4 in 2015) plus 5 foiled attacks since the Charlie Hebdo and Cacher Supermarket tragedies. In light of these facts, it can be said that the Catholic endeavour failed (particularly when we look at the evidence that Islamic terror is becoming more lethal, in Europe). Therefore, what will be repercussions of forcing Muslim students to have classes on secularism and ethics in state schools? European countries and the US should think twice before following the French example.
Time is running thin, threats are increasing and holistic measures don't seem to be improving the situation. Why is that? Because they are constructed under the Western perspective; they are built on our version of democratic values and our standards of morals; they shy away from the obvious problem; and, thus, they can't possibly bear any wholesome fruits.
Before we ask the military to go easy on their operations, we should all take lessons on Islam and on the Middle East (the source of the mindset). We need to learn concepts such as collective religious identity (which the secular West knows nothing about), we need to understand that the Islamic community has been trying to change and adapt to us for centuries with no success, because the Islamic tradition comes always first. Trying to ignore that, trying to impose our perspective of life on Islam renders any endeavour, as well-intentioned as it may be, null and void; because it will always face resistance and resentment.
So, does counter-radicalisation work? Not in the present framework, not as long as we continue to look at the issue from our arrogant, condescending and delusional perspective. More importantly, it will never work as long as the other side is unwilling to listen, to compromise and to change by itself, for itself.
(Image: Demon - Mihály Zichy)