The Battle of Ideas: can the beliefs that feed terrorism be changed?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Denis Dragovic, Tanveer Ahmed, Peter Kurti
19 September 2016 | OP149
The Battle of Ideas: can the beliefs that feed terrorism be changed?

Defeating violent Islamic extremism has been a high priority for all western countries, including Australia, since the 9/11 attacks in 2001. However, the threat we face doesn’t so much come from zealots flying planes into buildings as from young people barely out of childhood and who have their entire lives before them. Altering any kind of ideological ­belief — whether religious or political — is very difficult. Once we get into our heads ideas about the difference between good and evil, right and wrong or innocent and guilty, they can be hard to dislodge. To do so requires more than a government program. De-radicalisation has been dismissed by some as a pseudo-science ­designed more for our own benefit to help us deal with a phenomenon most of us simply do not understand. De-radicalisation programs are unlikely to be completely successful. They may well do some good although they will not magically fix the threat of radicalised youths without us ­having to do anything more. The threat of radicalised youths is likely to confront our society for some time to come. This collection of essays looks at what more we must do and asks whether the beliefs that feed terrorism can be changed.

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