Facing Jihad's Risk a Corrections Issue, Inside Guantanamo and Out


A current appraisal of deradicalization programs therefore appreciates their potential relevance. At the same time, the structure and composition of the program can render the work useless or worse yet, disingenuous. Proposals for Omar Khadr's future illustrate this latter point well. It was Khadr's own attorneys who specifically proposed deradicalization for Khadr in February 2009 featuring Toronto-based Imam Zafar Bangash in the role of steward for Khadr's reintegration into society post-release.

But steward into what? Imam Bangash has a legacy of incendiary anti-West rhetoric, including his 2002 characterization of Canada as a "fully paid-up member of the Anglo-Saxon mafia responsible for most of the recorded genocides in the world," and his assertion in Canada's National Post that the United States establishment wanted 9/11 to happen to pursue oil exploration initiatives in Afghanistan.

Deradicalization like this is no different from keeping Omar Khadr marinated in the extremist climate of the Guantanamo camps. There, American servicemen eager to promote the impression that freedom of religion is respected, stand idly by as Jihadists dominate and feed off each other to achieve a more concentrated degree of radicalism than one would find anywhere outside an Awlaki-run mosque.

The Saudi Prince Nayef, appraising the risk of released Guantanamo detainees from a different vantage point from ours, noted that ex-Gitmo detainees "infected" Saudi deradicalization programs and contributed to elevating the recidivism of those who had never been to Cuba.

Regrettably, tiny Singapore has far outpaced the world in implementing meaningful deradicalization. Attempts in Britain have collapsed under the force of charming and aggressive Jihadists who menace moderate Imams into submission and retreat. Jails and prisons of Europe are now dominated not just by Muslim presence, but extremist thinking. In American as well as Canadian facilities, tens of thousands of inmates are converting to Islam every year.

Yielding to the notion that they are respecting religion, corrections officials have failed to make a committed effort to staff prisons with devout, forceful but peaceful-minded Muslim imams. As a result, the more charismatic, Machiavellian, and aggressive leaders within North American corrections facilities dominate and influence vulnerable and often alienated Muslim prisoners. These influences remain after prisoners are released and have been implicated in American terror attacks by American-born ex-cons.

Many argue that the ripening of destructive fantasy in Guantanamo happens because of Guantanamo, and being detained. My experience in Guantanamo -- more humane and easier living than any maximum security facility I visit around the United States on a regular basis -- and my study of corrections in Europe and America teaches me that radicalization in Guantanamo is no different from the phenomenon in corrections systems of even the greatest of America's critics -- including the Arab world.

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