A quick primer on this episode: this episode is aired in 2016. I am not sure how successful the radicalization prevention program is now in Denmark. Nonthless, it still presents a different way of handling radicalization.

People naturally mirror each other’s actions. This phenomenon is called complementary behavior in psychology. Governments meet radicalization of the youth with restrictions (like taking away their passport) and punishment (capture and try people who came back from Syria). This hostility is then mirrored by the youth who already feel discriminated against and unaccepted. They might actually seek radicalization as a response to the hostility from the general society.

What two policemen in Denmark, Link, and Aarslev, used their intuition to arrive at the non-complementary behavior, offer warmth and love in the face of hostility. They welcomed the youth who were returning back from Syria back to the community. They asked the youth (who already went to Syria or who are thinking about going) for a coffee chat, then get the youth medical treatments (if the youth needed), help them to finish school, find apartments. The police department pairs the youth with mentors who faced similar discriminations growing up yet find success and belonging now. This program was very successful at preventing youth from going to Syria while the other European countries were seeing continuous traffic of radical youth leaving.

It dawned on me that it is not so hard to understand those youth. People find meanings, friendships, identities, recognitions from religions and from many other places. We are all wired to ask ‘who am I, where do I come from, where am I going, what is my purpose in life.

If we are not even meeting people’s physiological and safety needs(personal security, employment, health, property), as well as completely ignoring their needs for love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization, on top of that we show hostility, what could they possibly give back?

In other words, if we want to help people, we can help them according to Maslow’s hierarchy needs. Help them get health care, help them to get employment, help them feel seen, loved, and belong, help them to create their own fate, etc.

Quotes:”They want identity. They want recognition. The youngsters are dying to belong. They are dying to belong.”

“There are still thousands of people who are drawn to the brotherhood or the narrative or the meaning or whatever it is they’re finding in ISIS and the caliphate.”

“Arie Kruglanski, a social psychologist at the University of Maryland who studies violent extremism, states that there are strong correlations between humiliation and the search for an extremist ideology,” he says. Organizations like ISIS take advantage of people who, because of racism or religious or political discrimination, have been pushed to the margins of society.”

Partial Transcript + Additional Reporting: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/07/15/485900076/how-a-danish-town-helped-young-muslims-turn-away-from-isis

Full Transcript: https://www.npr.org/2016/07/15/485904654/read-the-transcript