‘Hug a Jihadi’ program in Denmark offers rehab for returning fighters
AARHUS, Denmark (Kurdistan 24) – A program organized and run by police in Denmark is offering those radicalized by the Islamic State (IS) a chance to reintegrate into society.
The program, controversially called “Hug a Jihadi,” aims to rehabilitate and treat those exposed to IS radicalization through empathy.
“While we in the west might blame Islam for the cause, it’s much more complex than that—while Islam is a part of that, it’s not the whole picture,” reporter Evan Williams said.
Williams hosts a television segment called Dateline which examined whether terrorism could be stopped through the rehabilitation of extremists.
He added the program was also available to IS fighters who had returned home.
“Aarhus had one of the highest numbers of young people per capita leaving for Syria and has reduced that obvious recruitment ground to zero,” Williams said.
Pointing to “lone wolves [who] were typically radicalized online,” Williams explained those who sympathize with IS are looking for empowerment.
“These young men are looking for meaning and a sense of family and feel they get this through IS ideology,” he noted.
“They feel they’re fighting for a bigger cause and that’s what empowers them,” the reporter added.
Although Denmark is not the only country which offers returning extremists deradicalization programs, Williams said the Danish program “goes back to the cause.”
Regarding the idea behind the 'Hug a Jihadi' program, Police Superintendent Allan Aarslev said his team came up with a plan to prevent would be fighters leaving the country.
“We had a number of options,” he said. “We could prosecute them all if we can find evidence; however, those we couldn’t prosecute, what should we do about them?”
Meanwhile, the program has received criticism from local politicians who believe the radicalized and returning IS fighters are being given “a lot of privilege.”
Editing by G.H. Renaud