The Sunday Edition

Jihadi Town - a Karin Wells documentary

Karin Wells takes us to Aarhus, a city in Denmark that is home to a radical mosque. More than 30 young men and women have left Aarhus to fight for ISIS in Syria. Recruits who return home are met with a radical approach: instead of sending them to jail, the authorities enroll them in rehabilitation programs.
Oussama el-Saadi, chairman of the mosque at Grimhojvej, outside of Aarhus, November 14, 2014 (Credit: Bjorn Lindgren/AFP/Getty Images)

The headline in the British newspaper says it all: "Portsmouth Jihadist Killed in Syria: Wanted to Come Home". He was 19; the 4th young man from that British city killed fighting for ISIS. Then there are the Swedes, the Belgians, the French teenagers. And there are Canadians: according to CSIS, a growing number. The EU says at least six thousand Europeans have gone to Syria to help their Muslim brothers. Many die in the fight but a great many, like that teenager from the UK "want to come home". Then what?

The British prime minister tried to ban young jihadists from returning. Germany has jailed those it can convict. The French talk about revoking passports. Denmark, benign little Denmark - part of the American-led coalition bombing ISIS targets - has the second highest number of jihadists per capita in Europe. A disturbingly large number come from the city of Aarhus, home to a radical mosque, and to an equally radical approach to returnees.

In Aarhus, when the kids phone home from Syria  - as they almost inevitably do - they are told, "Come back. You will be welcomed." They are given a second chance, in the name of prevention and security. The Aarhus model began to attract international attention last year. Barack Obama invited the Mayor to the White House to  talk about it.

In Bayonne, France, people mourn those killed in an attack at the Paris offices of the weekly satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo/Photo: AP/Bob Edme
Then came Paris, and the slaughter at the offices of the magazine, Charlie Hebdo. A month later, a young Palestinian Dane, born in a Palestinian refugee camp, shot up a "free speech" meeting, then a synagogue -  killing two people. What was Denmark to do?

Our documentary "Jihadi Town", was produced by Karin Wells.

Related content: In January, following the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, The Sunday Edition invited four guests from four different European countries to talk about Muslim assimilation in Europe. You can listen to that conversation, "I am Ahmed", here.


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