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Former Extremists Frank Meeink and Tanya Joya: The Way Back

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British-born Tania Joya is a former Islamist extremist who now works out of Texas on deradicalization. She stars in Clarion's film Kids: Chasing Paradise. (Photo: Clarion Project)
British-born Tania Joya is a former Islamist extremist who now works out of Texas on deradicalization. She stars in Clarion’s film Kids: Chasing Paradise. (Photo: Clarion Project)

Former extremists Tanya Joya (jihadi bride) and Frank Meeink (neo-Nazi) talk with Clarion Project about their journey out of extremism and how that has shifted their views on the issues society is polarized by at present.

Frank Meeink talks about how he doesn’t see himself as a victim, and how his experience in walking away from being a neo-Nazi has changed his relationship with violence.

When I joined that group [neo-Nazis], I didn’t lose my humanity. I gave it up for acceptance. You can’t have empathy and humanity and be a neo-Nazi. Even using my manners wasn’t something I did anymore as a neo-Nazi. I had to bury it deep down.

Former jihadi bride Tanya Joya reflects on what it means to try to be a good person in a toxic and extremist environment.

“When I see people like Hoda Muthana [an American jihadi bride asking to come back to the U.S.] and other extremists, people who reject the West … I empathize with them, because what I see are young women who come from broken homes who are escaping the trauma they were raised in. I see them trying to seek God, like I was.

They’ve been misguided, and I know what it’s like because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like to be vulnerable and weak-minded. I also understand the process of radicalization … how every time you try to think outside the bubble you get shut down by the community.

Joya speaks to how her views changed when she became a mother, and how being a mother gave her courage to have the confidence to speak her mind. She also reflects on how these women have been living in chaos and destruction for the past six years, never experiencing a single day’s happiness, never getting a break.

“We need to give them a taste of happiness back,” she says.

Joya admits they’ve committed crimes but, as Franks also believes, haven’t lost their humanity; they have d to bury it, she says, adding that we have a chance to rehabilitate people by bringing that back into their core character.

 

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