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Deradicalization or Disengagement? A Process in Need of Clarity and a Counterterrorism Initiative in Need of Evaluation

perspectives-on-terrorismJournal abstract

As a result of the overwhelming preoccupation with uncovering the process of radicalization into terrorist activity, little attention has been paid to the related, yet distinct processes of disengagement and deradicalization from terrorism. This continuing neglect is ironic because it may be in the analysis of disengagement that practical initiatives for counterterrorism may become more apparent in their development and feasible in their execution. While a variety of deradicalization initiatives worldwide are currently receiving enormous interest from afar, it is inevitable they will be subjected to intense scrutiny regarding their alleged outcomes and claimed successes. A more immediate challenge, however, is to assert some conceptual and terminological clarity. While deradicalization has become the latest buzzword in counterterrorism, it is critical that we distinguish it from disengagement and stress that not only are they different, but that just because one leaves terrorism behind; it rarely implies (or even necessitates) that one become 'deradicalized'. One of several implications arising from this distinction may be a more realistic appraisal of how our knowledge and understanding of the disengagement processes (and not undefined and poorly conceptualised deradicalization efforts) may be put to effective use in the short-medium term development of research agendas.

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