Timothy Koch, graduate student of international affairs at The New School
The third generation of Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) has increasingly been framed within the rubric of the emergence of a “radical religious” aspect to conflict. This concept is not foreign to conflict in general, however; as a misnomer it is a defining feature of today’s conflicts. This notion has created a need for DDR practitioners to address the ideology of conflict in order to maximize success within the world of DDR.
Groups such as Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Islamic State hold their perverse interpretation of religious identity as an integral part to their group, and its ability to recruit and sustain violence. In fact, these groups often cite religion as a prime mover for waging war. While these groups would have people believe they are practitioners of religions, such as Islam, it is easy to see that any radical religious group with a zealous and misinterpreted ideology can take on this role. We have seen examples in the past such as the Branch Davidians Waco, Texas who were stockpiling enormous amounts of weapons in preparation for a type of holy war or day of reckoning.
This aspect of conflict must be understood in order to DDR these groups. DDR practitioners must attempt to reframe religious ideology and beliefs to their own advantage in attempts to dissuade ‘formers’ from these groups from committing acts. of violence as a means of political or social dissent. It would be useful for DDR teams to integrate religious surrogates or experts in their practices in an attempt to produce material, and expand discourse around religious ideology and philosophies. Formers and religious scholars acting as surrogates could gain more respect and hold much more weight in their conversation and negotiation skills in terms of discussing religion.
It is easy to see that DDR practitioners cannot treat these groups like the freedom fighters of generation one or the rebel groups of generation two. These groups are of a different character, and because their religious ideology is such an important part to their personal and group identity it must be addressed. These groups have a perverse and twisted idea regarding their religion and the rest of the world, and some moderately orientation surrogates cab assist in reform and ‘deradicalization’ efforts through a reorientation in their own religion. These formally non-conventional groups are becoming the norm of today and we must take adequate steps to combat them and we must create relevant DDR policies and guidelines to provide a road map to DDR them. The idea of a religious surrogate within the DDR team must be included in these policies and guidelines.