Revisiting the De-Radicalisation or Disengagement Debate: Public Attitudes to the Re-Integration of Terrorists

Gordon Clubb, Edward Barnes, Ryan O'Connor, Jonatan Schewe, Graeme AM Davies

Abstract


The article reports on the findings of an experimental survey which was conducted to ascertain the level of support and perceived effectiveness of using de-radicalisation programmes to re-integrate returning foreign fighters. Public support (or the lack of opposition) for re-integration programmes can be important in ensuring the programmes have the time, resources and opportunity to be successful however we know little about what wider society thinks about re-integration programmes. The article explores the extent to which the inclusion of de-radicalisation – in name and content – changes attitudes to a re-integration programme. This is relevant in showing attitudes to de-radicalisation over disengagement and whether de-radicalisation, while perhaps not more effective at the programme-level, is or is not more effective at generating public support for re-integration (and thereby facilitating the process itself). We find that the inclusion of de-radicalisation in the name and content of a re-integration programme to a small extent increases support for re-integration over a programme that uses the terms disengagement and desistance. However, we also find that while de-radicalisation increases support, it also decreases perceived effectiveness, leading respondents to feel it makes the country less safe and less likely to reduce the re-offending rate than if the programme excludes de-radicalisation. We argue this polarising effect is reflective of wider reasons for supporting the policies (e.g. de-radicalisation may be seen as a form of ideational/normative punishment) and that the term de-radicalisation may shift the framing of the problematic to entrenched social structures, thus rendering itself ineffective as a policy treatment. In terms of policy, we argue there is a necessity for greater openness about re-integration programmes and that governments would benefit from selling the programmes to the public. We conclude our paper with a justification of focusing further research on understanding public/community attitudes to re-integration programmes and understanding the PR of counter-terrorism policies more generally.


Keywords


De-radicalisation; Disengagement; Re-Integration

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References


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