London Bridge jihad murderer Usman Khan was at Cambridge University Friday, attending a prisoner rehabilitation conference, when he suddenly decided to demonstrate the effectiveness of the “deradicalization” process: Khan stabbed Jack Merritt, 25, to death at what the Daily Mail called a “prisoner rehabilitation conference that paired jailed killers with students and held creative writing workshops.”
But there’s nothing to worry about here. Jack Merritt’s father, David Merritt, is still a true believer in Britain’s failed multiculturalist project: he wrote that Jack “would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.” Apparently, David Merritt would want jihadis in Britain today to be treated exactly the way Usman Khan was, that is, with credulous leniency. ITV News reported Saturday that Khan got onto the track that led him to the program where he killed Jack Merritt when he “penned a letter from his jail cell asking to take part in a deradicalisation course to become ‘a good British citizen.’”
Predictably, British authorities, ever anxious to avoid charges of “Islamophobia,” fell for it hook, line, and sinker.
Khan’s deceitful cry for help came in October 2012, “after his conviction for plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange as a member of an al Qaida-inspired group.” While he was in prison, he wrote to British authorities, saying he wanted to “learn Islam and its teachings” through a “deradicalidation [sic] course.” Khan added: “I would like to do such a course so I can prove to the authorities, my family and soicity [sic] in general that I don’t carry the views I had before my arrest and also I can prove that at the time I was immature, and now I am much more mature and want to live my life as a good Muslim and also a good citizen of Britain.”
His request was granted. And Khan is by no means the first “deradicalized” Muslim to return to the jihad. Deradicalization programs have been implemented elsewhere, notably in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s deradicalization program is worse than a failure: terror analyst Paul Sperry wrote in the New York Post several years ago that “counterterrorism experts have long suspected Saudi Arabia’s ‘rehabilitation’ center for terrorists does a poor job of de-radicalizing jihadists. But a Saudi detainee at Guantanamo Bay now reveals it’s actually a recruiting and training factory for jihad.”
According to recently declassified documents, senior al Qaeda operative Ghassan Abdullah al-Sharbi told a Gitmo parole board that the Saudi government has been encouraging previously released prisoners to rejoin the jihad at its terrorist reform school, officially known as the Prince Mohammed bin Naif Counseling and Care Center.
When asked about the Saudi deradicalization program by his parole board at Guantanamo, al-Sharbi responded: “True. You are 100 percent right, there is a strong — externally, a strong — de-radicalization program. But make no mistake, underneath there is a hidden radicalization program. There is a very hidden strong — way stronger in magnitude — broader in financing, in all that.”
The record shows that al-Sharbi was right. UPI reported in February 2009:
Eleven Saudis released from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are on a list of 85 wanted terrorism suspects made public by the Saudi Interior Ministry, officials said. Saudi officials said the 11 former Guantanamo Bay detainees underwent a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists and are thought to have fled the country, joining terrorist groups elsewhere.
In June 2010 a Saudi official revealed that twenty-five graduates of the Saudi deradicalization program had returned to jihad.
That same month, Indonesia’s Minister of Justice and Human Rights, Patrialis Akbar, admitted that his country’s deradicalization program was a failure: “We have to say that generally the program has failed. There are convicts who have successfully been re-integrated back into society, leaving behind their old ways. But successes are few compared to those who remain unreformed. It is extremely difficult to reform terrorists because we are trying to destroy years of indoctrination and misinterpretation of Islam.”
One wonders why it is so difficult. If their misinterpretation of Islam is so clear, one would think it wouldn’t be all that hard to explain it to jihadists, who are generally very devout and anxious to the right Islamic thing.
Unless, of course, the “misinterpretation of Islam” that the jihadists use to justify their actions and make recruits is based on a broad, mainstream tradition in Islam — a tradition that is yet to be successfully challenged on Islamic grounds by self-proclaimed moderates.
And in the West? The Washington Post reported in February 2017 that the French government’s deradicalization program was, according to a French Senate report, a “total fiasco.”
This universal failure is no surprise. Deradicalization programs are based on a false premise: that jihadis are misunderstanding Islam and misinterpreting the Qur’an, and can simply be shown the error of their ways. If the true teachings of Islam are peaceful, then all that needs to be done is show the jihadis how they’re overlooking all the peace, and all will be well. But since the Qur’an and Sunnah are full of commands to make war against and subjugate unbelievers, the idea that jihadis can be “deradicalized” by reference to them is just a myth told to infidel authorities to lull them into complacency.
As Usman Khan demonstrated Friday on the London Bridge, we’re likely to be paying for this myth for a long, long time.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.