Now, with neo-Nazi hooliganism on the wane and alarm over European jihadists on the rise, it has been redeployed to address one of Europe’s most hotly debated issues: How to deal with hundreds of young Muslims who have gone to fight in Syria and now returned home.
In much of Europe, the answer has been to lock them up, or at least put them under investigation by prosecutors. Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Norway have all detained returning fighters, on suspicion that they either joined a terrorist organization abroad or violated restrictions on travel to Syria...
Denmark, with the second-highest number of foreign fighters per capita, has gone in the other direction, shunning punishment in favor of rehabilitation.
“We cannot afford not to include them back in our society and make sure that their path of radicalization is changed, so they can be an active part of our society,” said Jacob Bundsgard, the Social Democrat mayor of Aarhus, a city which is the pioneer of the softer approach.
According to the police, 31 Aaarhus Muslims, all of them under the age of 30, have traveled since late 2012 to Syria to support forces battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, but only one of them went this year. Five of these are believed to have been killed, including two women, and 16 have so far returned home.
There's a word for what Denmark is doing to try to elicit the loyalty of local jihadis and that word is "bribery":“What we are doing seems to be working,” said Jorgen Ilum, the chief of police for the region, describing the program as a “crime prevention” exercise that seeks to “protect society from extremists,” not to mollycoddle jihadists. The police chief acknowledged that full “rehabilitation” of returnees is extremely difficult, and that “none of them are completely normal,” but added that none had veered off into militancy since coming home...
In Denmark, not one returned fighter has been locked up. Instead, taking the view that discrimination at home is as criminal as Islamic State recruiting, officials here are providing free psychological counseling while finding returnees jobs and spots in schools and universities. Officials credit a new effort to reach out to a radical mosque with stanching the flow of recruits.The "we-give-you-stuff-and-in-exchange-you-don't-kill-us" approach may (or may not) be effective in the short term, but I wouldn't bet on its working in the long run.