Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Indonesian Deradicalization Program Working: In Indonesia, at Least

Good news from Indonesia: "Indonesia's success: using terrorists to fight terrorism."

At least, that's what that an op-ed piece in the "Los Angeles Times," repeated in "The Baltimore Sun," says. The 2002 Bali nightclub bombing changed Indonesia's problem with Islamic terrorism from a regional problem to a global issue for the largest Muslim nation on Earth. Now, Indonesia seems to have a solution to their internal security - and public relations - problem.

And Joshua Kurlantzick, the author, says Indonesia's approach could be used elsewhere. He could be right.

Jemaah Islamiah (JI) is a major problem in Indonesia. The country has been dealing with day-to-day terrorist threats with good police work. "Backed by U.S. training and high-end surveillance equipment, Indonesia's elite counter-terrorism squad has established an effective internal intelligence network, relying on informants to point the way to terrorist hide-outs and arresting hundreds of JI members."

Indonesia is also trying to cut off the supply of terrorists. They're sending people into prisons, to convince inmates that Islam doesn't support (most) terrorism. As the op-ed piece put it: "These are men like Nasir Abas, once a Jemaah Islamiah leader, who have sworn off most types of violence. Former fighters who agree to help the deradicalization program often receive incentives, such as reduced sentences or assistance for their families."

Success in the Islamic world

Sounds good, and the program seems to be working. Reports of Indonesian internal terrorist activity are on the way down. Indonesia isn't the only place with programs like the one Nasir Abas is involved in. The op-ed piece cites deradicalization programs, with the catchy title "enactEd Reeducation strategies," in:
  • Egypt
  • Singapore
  • Malaysia
  • Jordan
  • Yemen
These deradicalization programs seem to be working. Sort of. Again, from the op-ed:

"Saudi officials say the program has been very successful. Major terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have plummeted compared with 2004. The Saudi plan also appears to have a broader regional impact. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, has said that the Saudi initiative may be one reason for the sharp decline in the number of foreign fighters coming into Iraq."

That's good news, as far as it goes. And, I'm glad to see that the Saudi jihad rehab program may be having an effect outside Saudi Arabia.

I think that the idea of intervening in the lives of at-risk people before they join the "death to America! death to the Jews!" crowd is a good idea. I also think that someone who used to support terrorism, and doesn't any more, is in a powerful position to argue for a less violent flavor of Islam.

As the author put it, "Even Western nations facing radical threats seem to be learning" (A condescending attitude??). He cites programs and policies in:
  • The Netherlands
  • Britain
As usual, government spending is taken as a measure of sincerity: The Netherlands is spending $40 million to start its deradicalization program.

But what the op ed doesn't mention is that the Saudi jihad rehab considers terrorists rehabilitated when they promise to lay off violent attacks on the Arabian Peninsula. That's great for the house of Saud, not so much for infidel nations. (I wrote about this earlier, in "Saudi Breakthrough! Jihadists Reformed!! Al Qaeda Members Promise No More Jihad*!!!" (November 27, 2007).)

I think it's one thing for a Muslim nation to convince Muslim terrorists that they shouldn't attack local Muslims: particularly when the country has an Islamic government.

I have doubts about how effective such a program would be in a secular, largely non-Muslim country like America. Or The Netherlands, or England, for that matter.

Besides, I can easily imagine the indignant protests that would happen in America, if a government program tried to interfere with the religious liberties and civil rights of Muslim inmates, and the Imams who visit them.

Particularly since most Muslim prison chaplains in America are certified by The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) or the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS). You won't find the GSISS now: It's in Ashburn, Virginia, now, and renamed itself Cordoba University in 2005.

Those outfits follow the Wahhabi version of Islam, and are being investigated by the American government for ties to terrorism.

So What?

Hats off to Indonesia and their prison intervention program. It confirms my opinion that Islam can tolerate a culture which allows women to vote, and hold jobs other than "cultural performers" or 'sex industry professionals.'

Intervention programs like Indonesia's are promising developments. However, I take the glowing description of the Indonesian "enactEd Reeducation strategies," and Saudi Arabia's jihad rehab program with a pinch of salt. Make that a handful.

The Saudi program considers a terrorist rehabilitated when he promises not to attack people on the Arabian Peninsula. The op-ed piece doesn't mention that vital detail, which makes me slightly dubious about how wide-ranging Indonesia's reform goes.

Consider the cautiously-phrased description of the reformed terrorists as "men like Nasir Abas, once a Jemaah Islamiah leader, who have sworn off most types of violence." (emphasis mine) I can't help wonder if the author feels uncomfortable about mentioning how conditional a non-western nation's commitment to eradicating terrorism is, when the terrorists are Muslims.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.