In the search for peace and security, the battle against radicalisation and violent extremism has taken centre stage on the global platform. In the Malaysian context, a groundbreaking initiative known as the REBUILD Project is on a mission to address the pressing issue of radicalisation prevention through resilience building and family empowerment. The project is an integral part of Malaysia's Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) initiative, shedding light on an area of research that has remained largely unexplored - the impact of conviction and detention on individuals arrested for violent extremism offences and their families.
This compelling initiative emerged from a crucial need to delve into the lived experiences of ex-detainees and their family members, with a focus on the challenges they face before, during, and after detention. The objective is not only to understand their experiences but also to identify the strategies they employ to cope with these challenges. What sets this research apart is, the pivotal role that linguistics plays in unravelling the intricate nuances of how participants articulate their experiences. By examining language choices and emotional undertones, the research team aims to craft precise and effective strategies for facilitating successful reintegration into society while pre-empting the risk of radicalisation.
The heart of this research lies in the collection of invaluable data through interviews. These interviews are no ordinary conversations; they involve vulnerable and often reluctant participants, which presents its own set of challenges. Nevertheless, the research team successfully conducted interviews with 20 participants, comprising 10 former detainees and 10 family members. The insights gathered through these interviews serve as the foundation for the creation of a Resilience Enhancement Module (REM).
The REM serves three purposes: to enhance the resilience of detainees and former detainees, enabling them to reintegrate into society and overcome the challenges they faced prior to, during, and after detention; to improve the psychological and physical well-being of these individuals and their families, promoting independent and healthy lifestyles; and to diminish the acceptance of violent and extreme ideological values, ultimately preventing future engagement in violent extremism. Once the REM is fully developed, it will be integrated into training programs for experts, government agencies, and civil society organisations. These training programs will encompass sharing the outcomes of the REBUILD Project through REM, providing essential knowledge and skills to apply the module, and suggesting activities, strategies, and training approaches tailored for diverse settings.
One of the crucial findings of this research is the creation of profiles for each beneficiary of REM. These profiles encapsulate the challenges faced during and after imprisonment, detailing coping mechanisms and emotional, psychological, and physical needs. Among the challenges highlighted are the harsh prison conditions, lack of familial support, social stigma, mental distress, and financial restrictions. The stigma attached to imprisonment can be counterproductive to the rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals into society. The struggle to find employment, housing, and support can lead to the risk of re-offending.
Both social and spiritual support emerges as a pivotal factor in helping individuals cope with adversities. Additionally, by acknowledging the challenges faced by others, they develop a greater appreciation for the positive aspects of their lives and are less likely to dwell in self-pity, becoming more proactive in finding solutions to their own challenges.
This groundbreaking research is made possible by the support of the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trades, as part of the International Counter-Terrorism Engagement Grants Program. This funding has played a pivotal role in various aspects of the REBUILD Project, from data collection through interviews to the development and implementation of the Resilience Enhancement Module. The REM promises to boost the resilience of detainees and former detainees for successful reintegration into society while addressing the psychological and physical well-being of these individuals and their families. It also seeks to reduce the risk of re-radicalisation or re-engagement in violent extremism-related activities.
As we look to the future, this research offers valuable insights for those who wish to further explore the impact of conviction and detention on individuals charged with violent extremism offences, including their families. Comparing the findings from Malaysia with those of other countries can shed light on commonalities and unique factors, contributing to a broader understanding of the issue. Moreover, the identification of support and stigma reduction initiatives and their sustainability can aid in policy development related to Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE). In conclusion, the REBUILD Project stands as a testament to the power of interdisciplinary research in addressing one of the most pressing global challenges. By strengthening resilience and fostering empowerment, this initiative offers hope for a more peaceful and secure world. It reminds us that every effort to understand and combat radicalisation is a step toward a brighter future.
From left, Dr Noor Aqsa Nabila Binti Mat Isa, Dr Ahmad el-Muhammady,
Dr Nurul Miza Mohd Rashid
1. Dr Noor Aqsa Nabila Binti Mat Isa, Senior Lecturer at the Department of English Language, Faculty of Languages and Linguistics (UM)
2. Dr Ahmad el-Muhammady - Assistant Professor at the International, Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation (ISTAC-IIUM)
3. Dr Nurul Miza Mohd Rashid - Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, IIUM
Ms. Puungkodi Paramasivam is a PhD Candidate in Linguistics. Her passion towards writing in her own words, "I translated the nation’s first Tamil longest and coloured hiking travelogue penned by the hiker. That experience encouraged me to indulge in writing which eventually introduced me to this article contribution. Definitely a golden opportunity!"
Siti Farhana Bajunid Shakeeb Arsalaan Bajunid
Assistant Registrar, Universiti Malaya