Can you cure ‘hate’?

Is there a way back from radicalised behaviour? We ask three people who are working to answer that very question.

From shootings in mosques, to bombings of churches - already this year the world has been shattered numerous times by violent extremism.

But remove the religion, the numerous cultural differences and the politics for a moment, at the very heart of these devastating events is one thing: hate.

So how do we cure it?

The Feed has spoken to three people who know the hate debate all too well. They each have their take on the most effective cure -  if there was a cure at all.

  The former white supremacist gang leader: deradicalisation is possible

"I was going to take my group out and try kill as many people as we could....we were planning to do it around the city."

As a young man, Matthew Quinn was severely beaten and tormented by bullies in his neighbourhood and at school. He says he suffered a mental breakdown as a teenager, which is what led him down the wrong path - to life as a white supremacist gang leader.

Oh it's disgusting.... but I was a very different person back then.
Quinn says he has since volunteered with the New South Wales Police force, to help de-radicalise alleged violent extremists. He also runs the organisation 'Exit Australia', hoping to put an end to violent extremism in the country.

He says it is possible to turn someone away from extremist behaviours - in some sense, to 'cure' the hate.

back from hate
Former gang leader Matthew Quinn says it is possible to come back from extremism. Source: SBS

The former gang leader is currently working with Michael Holt - a self-confessed Australian neo-nazi who's been jailed on weapons and child pornography offences.

Matthew says the fight against hate starts with understanding what circumstances lead someone like Holt to extremist behaviour.

"You have to work more on the emotional side, read through the gaps of the ideology to find his personal story, and then just work through the things that triggered him, and pushed him to looking at doing violence."

The next stage is to disengage someone from the violent side of their anger. Once that's done, psychologists would step in.

Matthew Quinn won't guarantee that his path to de-radicalisation would be 100 per cent successful - but he remains optimistic about the positive impact his approach could have.

"The results that we have so far of him [Holt] disengaging from violence are pretty good."

The ‘controversial’ Islamic leader : early intervention is key

For Ghaith Krayem, 'hate' works in the Muslim community - in the rise of the far right.

"We've seen the rallies. We've seen the rhetoric. We've seen the threats to mosques, the graffiti, the vandalism. Geelong Mosque being burned down, Toowoomba Mosque in Queensland, twice someone's tried to burn it down."

After Christchurch I was contacted by many young men...who said this fear of what happened in Christchurch is with me every single day.
Ghaith's refusal to condemn an 18-year-old Muslim boy who stabbed two police officers has seen him labelled a 'radical Islamist'.

In November last year he was also one of several Islamic leaders who refused to meet with Prime Minister Scott Morrison at a roundtable to tackle extremist violence.

Ghaith says he is working to stop extremism - his way. However, unlike Matthew Quinn, he believes by the time someone is radicalised, it's almost too late. His focus is early intervention.

back from hate
Islamic community leader Ghaith Krayem says early intervention is key. Source: SBS

This focus has seen him create 'The Middle Ground' - a project that's been kept under wraps until now. Along with a team of researchers, Ghaith held a series of separate workshops with those on the far right and those in the Muslim community more at risk of being radicalised. The aim: to allow people to disagree and air their grievances in a healthy way - in controlled, safe spaces before reaching violence. The result: an online resource that debunks myths and misconceptions about key issues that their research shows are the cause of division and contention.

"Society generally, media in particular do not give Muslims the same opportunity to express what are valid, legal and ethical positions as white people do."

One of the project leaders, Maha Abdo from the Muslim Women's Association says that after Christchurch, these spaces are more important than ever.

"It's about understanding what are some of the social issues, and why are people so angry?"

The forensic psychologist: ‘hate’ is complicated

Professor of Forensic Psychology at the University of Westminster Coral Dando says when it comes to psychology of radicalisation, things get complex.

"Hate cannot be prevented, but we are not born as 'haters': we learn this, or it evolves."

She says research on personality has a long history - but targeted research on terrorist personalities is limited.

"We as a society typically exclude/criminalise/shun radicalised individuals, for very good reason."

Professor Dando notes there's generally an agreement that a number of factors contribute to 'terrorist' or extremist personalities - but it's difficult to clarify what these factors are.

"They 'become' as a result of their political, social, and economic circumstances, and individual characteristics (including personality).

But, not everyone with the same experiences becomes a terrorist, and there is no psychological evidence that terrorists have abnormal personalities.
She says it's the 'radicalisation years' that offer psychologists the most insight into understanding why a person might turn to political violence.

When it comes to the de-radicalisation process, Professor Dando notes there's more we need to learn about effective psychological treatments.

"The data is very sparse, and the people involved are not brought to public attention."

And when it comes to curing hate...we need to understand everything that affects it - not just psychologically.

"Factors in addition to psychological factors fuel hate, and these need attention too if we are to try and reduce hate and replace it with tolerance from a societal perspective."

It’s crucial that we keep educating ourselves

As Professor Dando explains, hate is complex - and there is no one simple solution to 'curing hate'. But in the current climate we're in, it's crucial to look at approaches being taken, and what we can learn from those in the thick of it say is working for them right now.

Only then, it seems, will we have a better understanding of how we cure it and in turn hopefully move towards preventing violence and extremism.

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6 min read
Published 26 April 2019 at 11:02am
By Elly Duncan, Patrick Abboud
Source: SBS