The US State Department invited Muflehun Executive Director Humera Khan and other community leaders from around the world to discuss the best ways to counter extremism for the #StrongCities Initiative. Ms. Khan talks to NPR about the role of civilians in this space.
The Huffington Post publishes Humera Khan’s perspective on social isolation and violent extremism.
In March 2015 Executive Director Humera Khan was invited by the US Embassy in Amman to run workshops, training and briefings, in conjunction with the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf and Ministry of Interior, for senior government officials, law enforcement, male and female preachers, youth, universities and think tanks in Amman, Zarqa and Ajloun.
The workshops with preachers and youth focused on CVE awareness, skills to build narratives to counter ISIS ideology, youth identity and the use of social media to counter violent extremism. The events with government officials, universities and think tanks laid out CVE frameworks for designing national and local CVE strategies. The briefings with law enforcement focused on good practices for prisoner rehabilitation.
Over 300 people participated in the multiple events held over two weeks.
On January 4, 2011, 21 year old Emerson Begolly was arrested in his mother’s car on charges of carrying a loaded gun1 and biting two FBI agents when they tried to question him; his defense claims that he has autism and the agents opening the car door and reaching for him caused his biting response that drew blood. Mr Begolly was being investigated by the FBI due to his online postings and social network alliances that indicated he was a Nazi-turned-radical-extremist with a worrying interest in killing people. Reminiscent of the 2002 movie “Minority Report”2 that depicts a world where a “PreCrime” police unit exists to stop crimes before they happen, the FBI is now in the impossible position of prosecuting a man for a potential crime that he was fantasizing about committing.
Whether he is eventually charged and convicted on terrorism-related offences will be determined by the courts, but what is hard to ignore is the need for “deradicalizing” Mr Begolly and others like him. Preventing extremists from becoming operational is better for our society than having to deal with the consequences once people are committed to violence. Intervention and rehabilitation programs have been known to succeed in other countries, even with hardened criminals, and can do the same here.
There is an assumption that any rehab program would necessarily include religion, and the separation of religion and state is the reason our government cannot get involved; however this should not mean there is no role for the government in rehabilitation efforts. While they should not be teaching or advocating versions of any particular religion, they can certainly play a part in encouraging public/private partnerships with psychologists, religious clergy, families and communities. The model can be similar to the way many churches are involved in prisoner re-entry, safe havens for youth leaving gangs and refugee resettlement programs. Partnerships such as these would help strengthen the relationships between the American Muslim community and law enforcement, and create a more trusted environment for community policing.
In an ideal world, when a case like Mr Begolly shows up on the law enforcement radar, it would be better if he is counseled away from his warped world view as the first step; arrests and jail time should be our last resort and used only in cases where it is clear that the extremist is operational and planning an attack.