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German visitors advised on countering extremism of at-risk youth

The practitioners deal with radicalized prisoners, foreign fighters and targeted communities

German delegates
USC Price Dean Jack H. Knott greets a delegate from Germany. (Photo/Lynn Feng)

Experts from the USC Price School of Public Policy hosted a delegation from Germany as part of a continuing effort to share research and exchange ideas related to countering violent extremism.

The Nov. 30 event was a collaboration between the USC Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) and the Safe Communities Institute.

This was the fourth group of government officials or community leaders to visit USC this year through the Department of State’s International Visitor Program, following delegations from South and Central Asia, Iraq and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Erroll Southers, SCI’s director of homegrown violent extremism studies, led the discussion with the two German participants who are practitioners working directly with at-risk individuals and their families. The meeting was more of a back-and-forth discussion than a presentation.

“This was quite different than previous international groups that have come to speak with us because these women were operational,” Southers said. “They’re talking to people in prisons who have been radicalized and recruited, they’ve talked to returning foreign fighters, they’re in the targeted communities working with these individuals. This conversation was much more informed on our end, with regard to things they are experiencing and what’s working for them.”

Also participating from USC Price were Dean Jack H. Knott, CREATE Director Detlof von Winterfeldt, SCI Director Frank Quiambao and SCI Project Specialist Juan Noguera.

Educating law enforcers

Knott noted that the relationship between the police and the community plays a key in preventing homegrown violent extremism, which is a focus of SCI.

One of the goals we have with our program is to try and change the way police are educated.

Jack H. Knott

“One of the goals we have with our program is to try and change the way police are educated so that community engagement, the diversity of people in the community and taking the community as a whole become integral, not just a day or two but a significant part of how police are trained,” Knott said. “I don’t see this as a separate issue from homegrown violent extremism because it’s really those personal interactions with the community and the social context that becomes so important.”

The two women visiting from Germany were Misbah Arshad, who works with Muslim youth to address societal challenges, and a counselor for a German nongovernmental that provides direct counseling and runs a national hotline for family members and friends of individuals considered to be at risk of violent radicalization. She asked not to be named out of concern for safety, after having faced threats in the past.

“For me it is very important to look beyond my plate and to see how people in other places deal with the things I have to deal with at home,” Arshad said through a translator. “I see it as an enrichment to be part of this program, and I’m going to return with new ideas and a different view of things. One of the best parts of this meeting at USC is I feel it’s not going to be a one-time shot, but there is going to be an exchange over and back.”

Southers is already making tentative plans to add on to a trip to France for a counterterrorism conference in February with a stop in Germany and has invited the women back to participate in a conference at USC next year.

“This is a group that we will stay in touch with for sure,” Southers said, “because we have a lot to learn from each other.”

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German visitors advised on countering extremism of at-risk youth

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