Swiss projects target roots of extremism

Not a game: A Palestinian boy at a military-style summer camp held by the Islamic Jihad movement on the Gaza Strip EPA/HATEM OMAR

Swiss authorities are looking into various means of heading off religiously motivated violence, especially when perpetrated by young people.

This content was published on June 11, 2017,sm

As attention hones in on security and surveillance services, Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung report on a new typology framework to identify dangerous individuals. 

Already in use by the German police force, the method outlines various “profile types” to help security services make a more rapid judgement about who to track. This is all the more important given that security services are “buckling under masses of information”, according to a former M15 officer quoted in Le Matin Dimanche. 

The most surprising finding was the rejection of the idea that religious fanaticism is the underlying driver; rather, it says, violent tendencies or a history of violent acts are much more important. A history of mental illness, especially in young men, is also a significant factor. 

Jérôme Endrass, a Zurich security official who helped develop the analysis, says in Le Matin Dimanche that the criteria should help to ease the “overburdening of the police”. But we still need to stay realistic, he says. Even under constant surveillance, “we can do nothing if [the suspect] suddenly decides to drive into a crowd of people”.

New prevention project

Meanwhile, the Federal Social Insurance Office is launching a project to prevent youths aged 12-25 from turning to violent extremism in the first place. 

As the newspaper NZZ am Sonntag reports, the project is aimed at youths who might be recruited via social media or computer games. As an example, the newspaper describes a brutal computer game where players score points for stealing, setting off bombs and shooting people. The virtual victims are not criminals but “non-believers”. 

The office’s goal is to counteract propaganda that incites violent extremism, be it religiously or politically motivated. By the end of 2018, it plans to support three or four media projects undertaken by non-profit organizations. The budget for each individual project is CHF30,000 ($30,943) and the deadline for entries is mid-August. 

For some months now, the Swiss Security Network has been removing terrorist propaganda from the internet – deleting a text, photo or video every week on average.

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