Saturday, March 11, 2006

Australia considers a plan to 'de-program' Islamic militants:

Police Commissioner Mick Keelty proposed the idea, saying the technique involved using respected imams or people previously connected with militant organisations to convert extremists to more moderate views.

Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that while "re-programming isn't the phrase I would use", the idea would be considered as it had been implemented successfully in Europe, the Middle East and Indonesia.

"Those governments have made an attempt to persuade extremists and terrorists who have been held in prison to change their point of view and to understand that it's not the Islamic way to kill, it's not the Islamic way to murder," he told reporters.


Indonesia's anti-terrorist squad now had former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) commander Nasir bin Abbas working for them and re-educating arrested JI recruits, he said.

"It's somebody they would have otherwise looked up to as a natural leader, in terms of a terrorist, and they've turned him around and used him to convert the others," Keelty said.


Keelty said he had raised the idea with the government in Australia, where 24 Muslim men are facing terrorism charges, but it would require a major policy shift and had gone no further.

"Essentially, it would be a threshold question in terms of policy as to whether we would engage in something that forces people into some sort of de-programming or de-radicalisation," he said.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman opposed the plan.

"These countries the police commissioner mentions are involved in torture," O'Gorman said. "This de-programming is part of the same basket of procedures."

O'Gorman said there was no evidence to suggest that the practice, which he said was better described as "brainwashing", was effective in deterring terrorism.

Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network spokesman Waleed Kadous, however, said a voluntary scheme had merit.

"It's important to highlight that already many respected scholars in the Muslim community are informally deconstructing terrorism and condemning terrorism to their congregations already," Kadous said.

"If it's voluntary we have no objection to it, but the problem once you make it compulsory is it just won't work, because religious leaders who do so will be seen as instruments of the government and will lose credibility to those people."

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