Insight – Changing a Mindset
This week Jenny Brockie hears from people whose beliefs were extreme and sometimes downright dangerous. She finds out how their ideologies came unstuck and what the lessons are for de-radicalisation programs.
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Lebana was born into the Twelve Tribes after her parents had joined the group a year earlier. Ten years later when her family left the group, Lebana said the commune was “all she knew” making leaving very difficult. These days Lebana says the best things about being away from the Twelve Tribes are having a closer relationship with her family and friends “who don’t dob on you.”
Mohamed Feisal is a member of Singapore’s Religious Rehabilitation Group, set up to counter extreme interpretations of Islam. Mohamed says the aim of the RRG is to steer people back towards what he calls the true nature of Islam. Mohamed and his fellow RRG volunteers mainly work with Jemaah Islamiyah members in prison, as well as their families. Mohamed and the RRG also run community engagement programs in schools to prevent people from becoming radicalised in the first place.
Yeonmi Park was a teenager when she fled North Korea with her parents. She grew up believing North Korea’s leader was a god who could read her mind: anyone harbouring bad thoughts about him would surely die. Reaching South Korea, she was sent to the government-run ‘Hanawon‘ resettlement centre, which aims to help defectors discard their old beliefs and integrate into South Korean society.
Shieun Yu is a South Korean psychologist who has counselled North Korean defectors. She says it’s hard getting some defectors to change their mentality because they have learnt not to trust people. Professor Yu has previously worked at the South Korean government-run Hanawon and she is still an advisor there. Professor Yu teaches North Korean studies at Korea University.
Tore Bjorgo is a professor at the Norwegian Police University College and author of several books about countering extremism. Many years ago, Tore was researching racist groups and says he discovered that some neo-Nazis wanted to leave the organisation but simply didn’t know how to – they were stuck. Tore visited Australia last year and spoke at the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University.
Tom Olsen once plotted to kill Tore Bjorgo. He was a neo-Nazi, and in the 1990s was the leader of a violent right wing group. He eventually changed his views and now he works alongside Tore to try to get others to leave radical extremist groups. Tom and Tore consider themselves friends now.
Twelve Tribes is a commune on a farm at Picton, outside Sydney. Matthew Klein is a former member, who was attracted by the group’s reputation as a religious community based on bible teachings. He joined the group with his wife and kids after selling all his family’s possessions. However, he now believes that the group is a cult, and draws on his experience to help others who want to get out. Matthew’s daughter Tessa also left the group but her mother – Matthew’s wife – has refused to leave.