Detainees chief sees Koran as key ally

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Detainees chief sees Koran as key ally

Published: July 16 2007 03:00 | Last updated: July 16 2007 03:00

Major General Douglas Stone has an unusual daily ritual for a US Marine: the commander of detainee operations in Iraq likes to read the Koran every day.
While he himself is of Christian faith, he sees the Muslim holy book as essential to his mission: he wants those in his custody - some of whom are hardcore Islamist militants - to do as he does and read it as much as possible.

The logic is simple, he says. If detainees read the Koran themselves, they will be better equipped to challenge extremists who deliberately misinterpret the religious text to justify jihadist campaigns.
"I intend to do my part to win in the battlefield of the brain," says Gen Stone. "And I intend to do it by helping [detainees] attack the idea themselves. If they've got a basic education, if they've got Islamic leadership that they trust and believe in, causing them to question [radical ideology], I have seen it work."
Gen Stone is no ordinary "grunt" or battlefield soldier. He speaks fluent Urdu and holds a doctorate in political science. He introduced the new rehabilitation programme almost immediately after assuming command two months ago.
"I decided to change the mindset from detention and custody to an entire new . . . re-integration programme," says Gen Stone.
In addition to creating education schemes - including for the 600 juvenile detainees in US custody - Gen Stone has started work schemes that provide an income for detainees that they can remit to their families. He has already started building a brick factory and will soon build a textile plant.
Gen Stone has also commissioned a study of the motivations of insurgents, in an attempt to improve understanding of how the US can prevent people becoming radicalised. "I have hired an outside company to study the entire insurgency and to try and figure out what is the insurgency motivation, what is their morale, what is their leadership, what's their recruitment, who are they, why are they here? Are they here because they were unemployed? Are they here because they are committed to a very strong jihadist viewpoint?"
"I personally believe that you need to view the detainees not as a risk because frankly the enemy views them as an opportunity," he adds. "They're a chance to understand how they train, what they think, who they are. I'm immensely interested in the whole set of motivations that they have."
Gen Stone argues that a fundamental part of the rehabilitation programme is the rule of law. Until recently, security detainees had their cases evaluated on paper by review boards in Baghdad. But Gen Stone says detainees need to be given a greater stake in the process.
In order to accomplish that, he invited members of the review boards to come to Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca, the two main US detention facilities, to review the cases in person.
He has also started doing in-person evaluations, using clerics, psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors, who help the detainees understand why they are being held without trial and how they can position themselves for release.
Gen Stone's approach is modelled on a pilot programme in Singapore and others in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UK, several other countries, that are attempting to deradicalise extremists. He says he decided on the need for a new approach during a month in California before he returned to Iraq for a second tour.
"Some people think that radicalisation is a permanent fixture, but that's not true. It's not a one-way street that people think it is," says Gen Stone. "Detainees can develop second thoughts, they can become disillusioned with their group."
Gen Stone say detention numbers are likely to increase during the surge - because commanders are more reluctant to release detainees back on to the street - but he believes his programme will help reduce the population in the long term.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
The logic is simple, he says. If detainees read the Koran themselves, they will be better equipped to challenge extremists who deliberately misinterpret the religious text to justify jihadist campaigns.

Negative. The Koran is a source of strength and resistance for the hard-core insurgents. It boggles my mind that we allow them to have one at all. :2c: