To combat the spread of Islamic radicalization and terror attacks in their country, police in Denmark have implemented an unorthodox method of dealing with terrorists: the "hug a jihadi" model of de-radicalization.
Set in Denmark’s largest city Aarhus, the program suggests that to change the minds of extremist youth and adults, police should offer kindness and support.
SBS’s Dateline reporter Evan Williams, who traveled to Denmark to examine this unusual program, spoke with a man using the alias Jamal, who said the program changed his decision to become a radical Islamic terrorist.
Jamal told Williams that he felt isolated as an outspoken and passionate young Muslim, so he began surrounding himself with other young Muslims who shared his sentiments. He said after spending time discussing jihad and watching radical sermons online with the others, they eventually made plans to leave Denmark for Pakistan.
Shortly before leaving, Jamal received what he considered to be a life changing phone call from a police officer who suggested he meet with a Muslim mentor.
Jamal, who chose to re-evaluate his decision to radicalize after participating in the program, told Williams that the typical response authorities have to suspicious Muslims only pushed him closer to extremism. He says the program’s offer of an open hand is what saved him from radicalizing.
“A lot of immigrants face difficulties maybe with the language, or the lack of networks, the lack of connections with the broader society,” says Faisal Mohamed, a mentor who works with young Muslims like Jamal. “Growing up as a young person you feel alone actually, and trapped between two worlds.”
Mohamed explains that he believes these feelings of isolation are what causes so many young Muslims to radicalize.
According to Dateline, an Australian news show, the controversial program has received its fair share of criticism.
Naser Khader, a Danish politician and Muslim born in Syria, believes this kind of program sends the wrong message to young Muslims.
“Go out and do something criminal, be jihadis, you will get a lot of privilege from the society,” said Khader. “That’s wrong in my opinion.”
During an appearance on Fox and Friends, Dr. James Mitchell, a former CIA agent who interrogated the mastermind behind 9/11, called the program “extremely naïve.”
(Photo: The Local Denmark.)
"I want you to imagine Rob O'Neill, the guy who shot bin Laden, kicking open the door in his compound, and he's armed with warm cookies and a 'Let's Cuddle' t-shirt. And he goes, 'Get on over here, you rascal. I got lots of hugs for you,'" said Mitchell. "It's a ridiculous idea."
Mitchell explained that promoting Western values within families, schools, and society is the only way to prevent the spread of radical Islamic terrorism.
"You can't raise a child in a stove-piped community where they're taught that the entire culture that they're supposed to assimilate in is evil and out to hold them down, and then when they become an adult expect them to do anything except rebel," he said.