Living Life in Color, Not the Black and White of Absolutism


DAESH lives in a crisp, black and white world: Semahat or Haram — allowed or forbidden. So do Neo-Nazis, apparently. Extremists see the world with few hues or shades outside their world view. Many things influence someone to reach that point, and intervening with that person, their family and their community is a proven way to disrupt this path. The BBC profiled Hayat this week: It’s an organization that works to intercede on behalf of friends or families of someone on the path to radicalization. (If you want to read a detailed of how their program works, here you here.)

Hayat is based directly on another very successful program in Germany called Exit, which has helped hundreds of people leave the neo-Nazi movement. According to Daniel Koehler, who runs the program, relief from family and neighborhood violence, exposure to moderate voices of religion (his group makes no attempt to change a person’s choice of belief) all combine to leach the fear and anger from a person, emotions that would otherwise send them down extremist — and violent — paths.

American interest in funding mental healthThis solution would never work in America today. Eliminating violence from the home and community requires investment is education, mental health and community-based solutions to violence. In the current extremist congresses in many states, money to do good is trumped by the need to build prisons and turn even minor criminals into sources of revenue at the local, county and state levels. And the levels of extremism for which Hayat was founded to defray is the same level in many right-wing political and religious groups firmly embedded in many American politicians at the state and federal levels.

Until Americans decide that “home improvement” is a worthwhile action, we’ll continue to empower the radicalization of our most disenfranchised citizenry.