Which Imam will “De-Radicalize” the Young Algerian?

By Souad Sbai

The young Algerian who was ready to attack will undertake a path of de-radicalization together with an imam. However, there are still no information about him. Who is he? Where is he from? What current of Islam does he profess and teach? Relying on an imam whose leanings remain unknown is not far-sighted. It is rather equal to incompetence – an incompetence that has already made France say that de-radicalization has failed.

Radicalization and de-radicalization: we have always heard very little about them. However, this binomial came under the spotlight on the occasion of the arrest of the sixteen-year-old Italian-Algerian boy who used to manage two Telegram’s chat-groups dedicated to the Caliphate, making propaganda in favor of ISIS.

According to the results of the investigation, besides the radical cyber propaganda activity, the young was self-training himself to make homemade explosives. Moreover, as maintained by the investigators, he was ready to build a rudimentary device to carry out an attack at his own school.

This case as such does not prompt us to make different reflections from those we have already put forward in other similar events. On the other hand, the choice to have the young Algerian undertake a path of de-radicalization with an imam deserve to be scrutinized.

To date, we do not know anything about this imam. Who is he? Where is he from? What current of Islam does he profess and teach? What is the limit of his action over the young Algerian? Which mosque was he selected from? Who attend that mosque?

All these are questions that, for now, have no answer. But one wonders: who has come up with the idea of subjecting the boy, who is already deeply radicalized, to such a path with an almost unknown figure?

A simple consideration of geographical and geopolitical nature would tell us that associating a Moroccan imam with a person of Algerian origin could be source of problems, given the longstanding unfavorable climate between the two countries.

Is he a Somali imam? Or an Indonesian? The question is not absurd, as in more than one occasion we have witnessed the “performance” of self-styled “do-it-yourself” imams spreading a frightening religious discourse, which was very far from the original tenets.

De-radicalization is a serious matter, it must be executed by trained and specialized professionals. I had the chance to take part in courses held by the Police, during which high profile scientific figures explained how the cult of death can be “eradicated” from a person’s mind.

Relying on an imam about whom, for now, is not known anything in terms of beliefs and teaching methods, it is not, I believe, a choice of great foresight, especially due to the young age of the person he will have to deal with.

An example? Let’s take France, where Senator Esther Benbassa, after co-directing a commission to evaluate the experience of de-radicalization with a imam, said: “Until now, de-radicalization in France is a real failure”, pointing her fingers at the “improvised beginners” involved in the process.

If you do not know the phenomenon of proselytism as carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood, including its origins and metamorphosis, the risk is that the person dealt with will be stopped for a short time, but at the end of the process he would not have moved a millimeter from his radical positions.

The age of radicalization, as we have seen in Turin and in this last case, is lowering more and more. This is also proved by the French study research ”La Tentation Radicale”, which pictures the extremism existing among young people of school age. The radicalized young person is supposed to go back to school immediately, without waiting any evaluation about the process.

A radicalized goes back to school, but it is not possible to figure out the rationale of this decision.

(*) La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana