Entertainment

Understanding the person behind the jihadi: Schneller

Documentary Undercover Jihadi finds that the best method in countering violent extremism is to "accept the person and condemn the deed."

Mubin Shaikh, a former extremist militant turned undercover counterterrorism operative, is the subject of the documentary Undercover Jihadi.

Contributed

Mubin Shaikh, a former extremist militant turned undercover counterterrorism operative, is the subject of the documentary Undercover Jihadi.

The show: Undercover Jihadi

The moment: The German lessons

In this documentary, Mubin Shaikh, a Canadian Muslim and former extremist militant turned undercover counterterrorism operative — he helped bring down the Toronto 18 — travels to Europe to study techniques and philosophies for CVE (countering violent extremism). He finds the best results in Germany, where the program is based on trying to understand jihadis, not just punish them.

Shaikh asks Cornelia Lotthammer, of Germany’s Violence Prevention Network, how she builds trust. “We have observed that sometimes we are the first in the life of these young people who are listening to them,” she says.

“We accept the person and condemn the deed. We are non-humiliating. We look at your biography so you can understand why you did this.”

As a measure of success, she offers this statistic: reincarceration rates for people in her program are 68 per cent lower than average.

This doc, from writer/director Barry Stevens, is worth paying attention to since Canada currently has zero programs to deal with returnees (people who leave violent groups and want to be reintegrated) other than prison.

Germany learned its lessons the hard way through Nazism. That’s why its programs are run by NGOs, not “an overwhelming state,” as one expert puts it. (France, where the CVE initiatives are state-based, is far less successful.)

Lotthammer’s calm listing of similarities between neo-Nazis and Muslim supremacists — dysfunctional family backgrounds, the urge to join a historic mission, an answer for everything that’s always black and white — will make you shiver. Especially her last one: “Stop thinking, we’ll take over from here.”

Undercover Jihadi airs Thursday at 9 p.m. on TVO.

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