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Surendra Raje Sawant asked: How is counter-radicalisation different from de-radicalisation?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: The confusion between the terms ‘counter-radicalisation’ and ‘de-radicalisation’ was quite common even in counter-terrorism literature in the last decade. However in recent times, these terms are no longer used interchangeably, but refer to clearly enunciated and distinguishable sets of measures employed to reverse the process of radicalisation in different stages of its life cycle with characteristic behaviour, tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs).

    In fact, we must add here another term ‘anti-radicalisation’ which constitutes its own separate set of measures directed at combating radicalisation, which is different from measures taken under ‘counter-radicalisation’ and ‘de-radicalisation’ programmes.

    The ‘anti-radicalisation’ programmes are meant to protect those segments of population that have only recently come under the influence of radicalisation and cover measures related to early detection of trends toward violent extremism and radicalisation as well as developing immunity and deterrence against the propagation of hateful and violent indoctrination.

    On the other hand, ‘counter-radicalisation’ campaigns are launched in communities/societies that have already contracted the virus of radicalisation and violent extremism and target those individuals/segments of society that are susceptible to or are in the process of joining forces of violent extremism or terrorism. The aim is to rescue such people/communities from fully embracing the ideology of violent extremism and from joining radical groups. The measures suited to counter-radicalisation operations include disengagement, rehabilitation and reintegration programmes.

    The third set of measures pertain to ‘de-radicalisation’ programmes, which treat violent extremists during their period of imprisonment or incarceration, so that they do not practise or propagate ideas of violent extremism once their jail term ends and they have to be released due to legal compulsions. Thus, ‘de-radicalisation’ programmes are solely devised for those individuals who have already been radicalised and may have even committed, aided or abetted acts or tried to commit acts of violent extremism.

    The ‘de-radicalisation’ measures cover post-surrender and post-detention programmes, such as behaviour modification programmes, ideological or religious counselling, vocational education, recreational and psychological rehabilitation, inter-religious or inter-communal harmony discourse, post-release surveillance and care, as well as involvement of family members and civil society to foster rehabilitation, etc. Currently, over 40 countries run various counter-radicalisation and de-radicalisation programmes around the world, mainly United States, and in Europe, West Asia and Southeast Asia.

    Sometimes, the term ‘counter-radicalisation’ is loosely used to include all the above category of programmes to combat radicalisation, as there is still no agreement among experts on what these programmes should be termed as collectively.

    For more on this subject, please refer to my following IDSA publication:

    Adil Rasheed, “Countering the Threat of Radicalisation: Theories, Programmes and Challenges”, Journal of Defence Studies, 10 (2), April-June 2016, pp. 39-76.

    Posted on November 10, 2016