Finding a Way to Un-radicalize Youth


noncomplementaryWe seem conditioned to read the emotions of people we come in contact with, then respond in kind.  If they smile, we smile.  Or if they are angry, we get angry.  Our reaction usually controls our response, kind of like the dogs in the photo.  This is called complementary behavior.  It is perfectly natural and it can lead to disaster.

But what if you met anger with kindness?  What if you reacted in the opposite way of the other person?  This is noncomplementary behavior, and although it’s in conflict with our instincts, it can lead to productive results.  Like stopping a hold-up by offering the criminal a glass of wine.

More importantly, it can be used to short-circuit recruiting to radical Islam.  Take the case of Aarhus, Denmark.  In 2012, hysterical parents started reporting their children missing.  Two crime-prevention police officers, Thorleif Link and Allan Aarslev, realized the missing kids were actually going to Syria to fight with ISIS.

How to respond?  All over Europe, politicians were preaching a hard line — these were terrorists and enemies and deserved to be treated as such.  But these two police officers came up with a different plan — they would invite them back, welcome them home, and help them integrate into Danish society.  This is a perfect example of noncomplementary behavior.  And it’s working!  Starting in 2012, 34 people went from Aarhus to Syria.  In 2015, only one did.

Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that and the program is still tenuous.  But it’s the best anti-terrorist success story I’ve ever heard.

The NPR program Invisibilia has a podcast entitled “Flip the Script” (July 15, 2016) that gives three examples of noncomplementary behavior, including stopping a hold-up with a glass of wine and the story of Aarhus, Denmark (  For a complete explanation of noncomplementary behavior, read ” What the Tech? Noncomplementary Behavior and Confrontation ” by Jim Knapp (, the photo came from that website).  To read directly about crime prevention in Aarhus, Denmark, read “How a Danish Town Helped Young Muslims turn Away From ISIS” by Hanna Rosin at .



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