Many countries have successfully reintegrated former combatants into society without forcing them to disavow their beliefs, he said. They might do it but their sincerity can be doubtful.
“We will lose if we start talking about de-radicalization; that is not the goal here at all,” Horgan said. “It is about safe reintegration and ultimately informed risk assessment.
“We are going to have to figure out how we can screen out, let’s say, the insincere participants versus those who have been truly disillusioned and want to come back home.”
Loza, however, said he believes you have to challenge an extremist’s core beliefs for any chance to detach him from the path of terrorism. That means employing cultural and religious knowledge.
“Designing programs for people who believe they are an agent for Allah or acting for Allah is very, very difficult,” he said. “It needs special expertise, you need people who understand what is it that they are talking about.”
Canada has already had one notable failure. Ali Mohamed Dirie, one of the so-called Toronto 18, who served a total of seven years (five in pretrial custody) for his part in a plot to blow up Parliament and attack politicians, was released in October 2011. He reportedly managed to leave Canada within a year and was reported killed in Syria last year.