Caught Between "Deradicalization" and "Disengagement:" Clarifying Terms in the Discourse of Terrorism

By T M
2013, Vol. 5 No. 11 | pg. 4/4 |

4. Conclusion

The essay set out to follow Horgan's call for a more abstract evaluation of initiatives and greater conceptual clarity between the terms 'deradicalization' and 'disengagement'. In doing so, it was argued that the three terms deradicalization, counter-radicalization and disengagement require tight definitions given the currently prevailing misuse. Therefore, section two and three deconstructed both terms and conceptualized their defining components consisting of 'radical' or 'fundamentalist' mind-sets on the one hand and 'terrorism' as a form of 'violent behavior' on the other. This provided the basis for the introduction of a framework referred to as the 'Fundamentalism-Violence matrix' which was used to conduct an exemplary analysis of government and civil society initiatives in section four.

Firstly, the analysis suggests the matrix's usefulness in creating a common understanding of the terminology, and thereby fostering better transnational cooperation. This seems particularly important considering the transnational nature of the adversaries including the Al-Qaeda network. Secondly, the findings suggest that the dimensions 'fundamentalist' and 'violent' should be taken into account when defining a program's goals, and when evaluating the extent to which goals have been achieved. In this context, the findings of section four suggest that some programs, although labelled 'deradicalization programs' should in fact be more appropriately referred to as 'disengagement programs' given their focus on behavioral instead of cognitive change.

Thirdly, an analysis on the basis of the four quadrants may be useful in evaluating a national counter-terrorism strategy's comprehensiveness in covering both radical ideas and violent behavior.

Finally, section four argued that by implementing a division of labour among governmental and civil society programs, governments can increase the coverage e.g. from prisoners to the broader population. The NGOs or SCOs are said to have a better local understanding and to be more capable of fostering integration and of creating a sense of belonging. Therefore, further research on civil society initiatives should be conducted, e.g. starting with an in-depth analysis of Bangladesh's context or the promising case study of North Caucasus, where different methods are applied in Dagestan and Chechnya. The aim should be to evaluate whether a group or an individual aligned to one quadrant of 'the matrix', may prove beneficial to a group or an individual in another quadrant, e.g. by promoting dialogue between non-violent and violent fundamentalists or between moderate non-violent and fundamentalist non-violent factions.


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1.) Cf. (Bergen 2001, 19) as quoted in (Mohamedou 2006, 51): “We believe the United States is responsible directly for those who were killed in Palestine, Lebanon, and Iraq. This American government abandoned humanitarian feelings by these hideous crimes. ... The United States today has set a double standard ... It wants to occupy our countries, steal our resources, impose on us agents to rule us … and wants us to agree to all this. If we refuse to do so, it will say, 'You are terrorists'.”

2.) (Seymour 1975)

3.) Cf. (Mamdadi 2004, 222)

4.) Cf. (George 1991, 92-93) as quoted in (Mohamedou 2006, 73-74): “For a number of years, a discipline of 'terrorology' has hence been constructed, whereby the notion of 'terrorism' is employed ... in response to ideological pressures whose fundamental tenets are skillfully insinuated through selective focus, omission and biased description.”

5.) (Horgan, Walking Away From Terrorism: Accounts of Disengagement from Radical and Extremist Movements 2009, 6)

6.) Cf. (Horgan and Braddock 2010, 282)

7.) (Horgan, Deradicalization or Disengagement?: A Process in Need of Clarity and a Counterterrorism Initiative in Need of Evaluation 2008, 8)

8.) All initiatives of deradicalization and disengagement discussed in this essay are aimed at Islamist individuals or groups. In future research the results of right-wing 'Exit' programs in Germany and Sweden may provide interesting lessons learned.

9.) (Embassy of Saudi Arabia 2012, 5)

10.) (Embassy of Saudi Arabia 2012, 5)

11.) Cf. (Fink and Hearne 2008, i)

12.) Cf. (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 4)

13.) (Horgan, Deradicalization or Disengagement?: A Process in Need of Clarity and a Counterterrorism Initiative in Need of Evaluation 2008, 5) as quoted in (Davis and Cragin 2009, 300)

14.) Cf. (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2012, 2)

15.) Cf. (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 3-4)

16.) (Bermingham, et al. 2009, 1)

17.) (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 2)

18.) Cf. (Wiktorowicz 2002, 210)

19.) Cf. (Horgan, From Profiles to Pathways and Roots to Routes: Perspectives from Psychology on radicalization into Terrorism 2008) and (Horgan, Individual Disengagement: A Psychological Perspective 2009)

20.) (Fink and Hearne 2008, i)

21.) (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 3)

22.) (UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force n.d., 5)

23.) (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 3)

24.) “Radical,” in (A Dictionary of Psychology (3 ed.) 2012)

25.) “Radical,” in (The Free Dictionary n.d.): “Departing markedly from the usual or customary; extreme”

26.) “Radical,” in (The Free Dictionary n.d.): “Favoring or effecting fundamental or revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions or institutions”

27.) Cf. (Malashenko 2013)

28.) “Extreme” in (New Oxford American Dictionary 2012)

29.) (Terterov 2013)

30.) For a brief overview of the origins of Islamism and Orientalism, see Appendix.

31.) (Kepel 2003, 220)

32.) Cf. (International Crisis Group 2013), cf. (Naumann December 2008) and cf. (ICCT April 19 2013)

33.) Referred to as “tawilat“, cf. (Kepel 2003, 220-221)

[34] (Lewis 2001, 60) as quoted in (Oberschall 2004, 21)

[35] Cf. (Feron, Lecture Week 7: Theories of Conflict and Violence 2012)

36.) (Malashenko 2013)

37.) Cf. (Wiktorowicz 2006, 208)

38.) Cf. (Tutt 2010)

39.) Cf. (International Crisis Group 2005) as quoted in (International Crisis Group 2012): “The term “Wahhabi” was used in the Soviet Union to designate dissident Islamic movements and is now commonly and pejoratively applied to all followers of the Hanbali school of law. Salafi organisations in the North Caucasus never use this term.”

40.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 72)

41.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 72)

42.) Cf. (Qutb 2011, 149)

43.) Cf. (Lacroix 2004, 346)

44.) (Feron, Lecture Week 1: Theories of Conflict and Violence 2012, 10)

45.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 19): “Residents rushed to barber shops for a clean shave and waited in long lines to reclaim old TV sets”

46.) Cf. (Davis and Cragin 2009, 309): “Noricks speaks of former JI militants who have renounced their actions—albeit not always their ideology”

47.) (Buzan, Waever and de Wilde 1998, 120)

48.) Cf. (Thomas 2009, 20): “Marc Sageman is a forensic psychiatrist and former CIA case officer who is recognized for his work on extremist mindsets, and potential ways to influence them.”

49.) Cf. (Sageman 2004) who speaks of in-group love and out-group hate and cf. (Sageman 2008, 66-69): “… may be spurred by political grievances, is fueled by the influence of radical group members on acquaintances who may … be brought into the group”

50.) Own figure

51.) Cf. (Horgan 2008)

52.) (Fink and Hearne 2008, i)

53.) Cf. (Davis and Cragin 2009, 313)

54.) Cf. (Diani 1992, 19)

55.) (Hafez 2003, 71) as quoted in (The Rise of Hamas: A Social Movement Theory Approach 2008, 45)

56.) Cf. (Hafez 2003)

57.) “Engage” in (Princeton Dictionary n.d.): 1. “engage, wage (carry on (wars, battles, or campaigns)), e.g. 'Napoleon and Hitler waged war against all of Europe',” 2. “engage, enlist (hire for work or assistance) 'engage aid, help, services, or support',” 3. “prosecute, engage, pursue (carry out or participate in an activity; be involved in) 'She pursued many activities'; 'They engaged in a discussion'”

58.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 324)

59.) Cf. (Jandal 2010 ) as quoted in (El-Said 2012, 44): “Al-Qaeda who pays its cadre around $300 monthly.”

60.) (International Crisis Group, Tunisia: Violence and the Salafi Challenge 2013)

61.) (ICCT April 19 2013)

62.) Cf. (Naumann December 2008, 3)

63.) Cf. (Bin Laden 2004) as quoted in (Mohamedou 2006, 99): “We would like to inform you that labeling us and our acts as terrorism is also a description of you and of your acts. Reaction comes at the same level as the original action. Our actions are but a reaction to your acts, which are represented by the destruction and killing of our kinsfolk in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine.”

64.) Definition of the US State Department as quoted in (Whittaker 2001)

65.) Cf. (Hoffman 1998, 41): Terrorism is according to Hoffman “the deliberate creation and exploitation of fear through violence or the threat of violence in pursuit of political change.“

66.) (Livingstone 1982, 4)

67.) Cf. (Laqueur 1987) as quoted in (Oberschall 2004, 26)

68.) (Oberschall 2004, 26)

69.) Cf. (Mohamedou 2006, 76)

70.) Cf. (Feron, Lecture Week 7: Theories of Conflict and Violence 2012)

71.) For example: “Is there a threshold for escalation and is it explainable by reciprocality?”

72.) Cf. (Oberschall 2004, 25)

73.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 141-142)

74.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 139)

75.) Cf. (von Clausewitz 2010)

76.) Cf. (Oberschall 2004, 29-30): “The greatest threat for terrorists is infiltration by informants, traitors, and information given to the authorities by third parties (e.g., former activists, neighbors, acquaintances). For self-protection, the terrorists will assassinate such spies and collaborators, even mere suspects-using more violence. Last but not least is violence against the moderates in their own camp who might have a credible plan for a political solution to the conflict.”

77.) Cf. (Sutton and Vertigans 2011, 108)

78.) Cf. (Oberschall 2004, 26)

79.) Cf. (Kepel 2003, 68)

80.) “The ICCT 'Rehabilitation and Reintegration program' in cooperation with UNICRI is aimed at gathering best-practices and involving different types of actors (academia, government, civil society incl. private sector) in facilitated dialogue,” see:

81.) Own figure

82.) Cf. (Research and Policy Director Briggs 2013). For research on Spain, see: (Pena-Ramos 2008)

83.) Cf. (International Crisis Group, Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah's Current Status 2007, 12-13): Ali Imron does not argue against the validity of suicide bombings or about attacks against civilians in general, and says instead that Indonesia's foreign policy allows for attacks against it, but: “we did not think through the costs and benefits, and it turned out we brought more harm than good to our community.”

84.) (Davis and Cragin 2009, 310)

85.) Cf.(Fink and Hearne 2008, 8): “They facilitate the renunciation of violent means without requiring members to abandon the ideal of a Sharia-governed state.”

86.) (International Crisis Group, “Deradicalization” and Indonesian Prisons 2007, i)

87.) (Horgan 2008, 5)

88.) Cf. (Fink and Hearne 2008, 12) and cf. (Horgan 2008)

89.) The interested reader may refer to (Ganor and Falk 2013, 124) for a detailed analysis of Israel's prison program. Israel's prison program is an example of a misunderstanding of the term deradicalization which explains the program's failure in changing the mind-set of prisoners. The following two statements raise doubt. Government statement: “effective de-radicalization process will, first and foremost, lead a terrorist and former inmate to renounce terrorism“ and quote of an ex-prisoner: “I will do it again, because the act came from deliberation, conviction, and faith in Allah, praise be to Him, because a jihad fighter [mujaheed] always expects martyrdom [shahada], imprisonment, or success . . . I was imprisoned, I overcame that predicament, and now I'm free. Why would I regret it?”

90.) Cf. (Noor and Hayat 2009, 4)

91.) Cf. (Fink and Hearne 2008, 10)

92.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 23): In Jordan “extremists surprisingly called upon the Jordanian authorities to establish a program similar to that in Saudi Arabia” and “to treat them in the same 'way the Saudi authorities treat their radicals, and carry out dialogue with us'”

93.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 35)

94.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 36): The "Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Council) [was] established in 1992 to promote more political participation, … staff … were highly respected and credible members of Saudi society”; “also created provincial councils in the mid-1990s to allow public opinion on daily affairs to reach the leadership”

95.) Cf. (Embassy of Saudi Arabia 2012, 6): The program consists of “school and religious programs and popular pronouncements, and the provision of positive, alternative outlets for at-risk groups—such as encouraging participation in sporting events and athletic programs, social outings.”

96.) Cf. (Embassy of Saudi Arabia 2012, 5,6)

97.) All quotes from (Embassy of Saudi Arabia 2012, 6-7)

98.) Cf. (Fink and El-Said 2011, 13-14): It is estimated that only 35 of 3,000 'deviants' or 'beneficiaries' have been rearrested for security offenses.

99.) See also (El-Said 2012, 18,36) with regards to the importance of credibility of deradicalization and disengagement efforts in the Egyptian context

100.) Cf. (Fink and El-Said 2011, 19): “Prince Mohammed: 'If a man reverts to violent extremism having been given everything by the state, he attracts little if any public support, whereas if a man returns to violence because he has been tortured or otherwise mistreated he is likely to take others with him.'; Cf. (El-Said 2012, 38): “A former inmate states: 'I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate.'”

101.) Cf. (Davis and Cragin 2009, 307)

102.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 38)

103.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 39) and cf. (Fink and Hearne 2008, 6): Saudi Arabia program referred to as “force, money and ideology”

104.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 42-44)

105.) (International Crisis Group, The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (II), Islam, the Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency 2012, 2)

106.) (El-Said 2012, 29)

107.) (Fink and El-Said 2011, 12)

108.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 33)

109.) Cf. (International Crisis Group, The North Caucasus: The Challenges of Integration (II), Islam, the Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency 2012): “Government's counter-terrorism policy has mainly been led by the interior ministry and the Federal Security

Service (FSB) and focused on law enforcement.” and “torture is applied widely for investigative or intelligence purposes”

110.) Cf. (EPLO 06.03.2013): The TV series was presented at a Brussels conference in March 2013.

111.) The show is aired in Angola, Burundi (radio only), Cote d'Ivoire, DR Congo, Ethiopia (radio only), Indonesia, Kenya, Lebanon, Liberia, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Yemen and Zimbabwe and won amongst others the first prize for best African TV Series at the African Film Festival in Verona, Italy. See:

112.) See (Ganguly 2006) for an overview of Islamist violence in Bangladesh instigated by Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)

113.) (El-Said 2012, 14)

114.) Cf. (El-Said 2012, 15)

115.) Cf. (Fink and El-Said 2011, 6) and cf. (El-Said 2012, 15)

116.) Cf. (Berkouk 2009) as discussed in (Fink and El-Said 2011, 5)

117.) Cf. (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2012, 22-23), cf. (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 22) and cf. (Fink and El-Said 2011, 17)

118.) (Fink and El-Said 2011, 17)

119.) Cf. (RAN Derad Working Group 2012, 2)

120.) Cf. (Institute for Strategic Dialogue 2010, 22-24) and cf. (RAN Derad Working Group 2012, 3)

121.) Cf. (Lawrence 1998)

122.) Cf. (Huntington 1993)

123.) For a history of Orientalism, see (Halliday 1996)

124.) Cf. (Wiktorowicz 2002, 194)

125.) Cf. (Wiktorowicz 2002, 195)

126.) Cf. (Shadid 2002) and cf. (Wiktorowicz 2002, 192-194)

127.) Cf. (Malashenko, Carnegie Endowment: The Dynamics of Russian Islam 2013): “The earlier waves of Kyrgyz, Tajik, and Uzbek migrant workers that went to Russia often violated sharia dietary prohibitions (consuming non-halal food and alcohol), rarely visited mosque, prayed less than required, and did not always fast during Ramadan.”


Orientalism and Islamism

Lawrence states that opposite to public perceptions “Islam is not violence”121. Although violent Islam is omnipresent in news and media coverage, Islamism originally goes back to the Islamic expansion from the 7th century onward and encompasses the cultural and religious traditions of the religion of the followers of the Prophet Mohammed. The inherent “otherness” which is most prominently outlined in Huntington's “Clash of Civilizations”122 was already part of the earlier concepts of “Orientalism”123 which described “the East” as voiceless, sensual and irrational and created an image of Oriental barbarism as opposed to European virtue. Wiktorowicz defines Islamism as Islamic activism which has increased in importance especially because political participation was largely prohibited by many authoritarian regimes both in Northern Africa as well as the Middle East and Central Asia. No matter how repressive the regime, the cover of religion and the mosques as meeting places still provided means to assemble and discuss societal and political issues.124 However, he stresses that neither the structural strains nor discontent alone are sufficiently causal explanations for Islamism.125 In this context, Shadid adds a valuable explanation for the recent return to Islamism in that rising economic uncertainty and the import of formerly unknown Western lifestyles and clothing alienate parts of the population in e.g. Egypt. Islamism may then be adopted to add a component of stability and most importantly as a substitute identity for traditional identities which are no longer available, e.g. the identity of a nomad.126 This “Islamization,” defined as the return to a more strict observance of Muslim rules and sharia principles, is according to Carnegie a distinct characteristic of Muslim migrants in Russia.127 This return to stricter rules links back to the findings of seeing moderation as favourable to fundamentalist ideas stated earlier.

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