The European Jihad
by Monnet Matters
A few months ago, we wrote about the surprising fact that a significant number of Jihads fighting in the civil war in Syria are from Europe. What is surprising about this is that among the many young fighters from the Muslim communities of Bosnia, there are also many more who have come from European Union member states.
Some of these young EU citizens are second or third generation immigrants whose parents arrived from predominately Muslim countries, while others are Europeans who have converted to the most radical form of Islam.
All of them have studied at European schools and some have even gone to university.
When we first wrote about this phenomenon, we said it is evidence of the failure of European societies to make the young generation feel proud to be part of the European culture. We also highlighted the fact that the responsibility of driving them to this extreme form of rebellion is the economic crisis and the promise of a life of unemployment. After all, poverty and desperation is what pushed hundreds of thousands of European citizens to vote for Eurosceptic and far-right parties in the recent elections.
By the time European governments realised there was a sort of jihad-tourism of young people bound for Syria, the phenomenon had already taken on the dimensions of an epidemic.
According to analysts at the Brookings Doha Centre, between 1,000 and 1,500 Europeans may currently be fighting with rebel forces in Syria against President Bashar Assad. And anyone who returns represents a potential threat, according to official European thinking. Yet the challenge of tracking them down is huge.
About 10 days ago, an armed jihadist entered the Jewish Museum in Brussels and opened fire, killing four people.
The killing was not an isolated incident. The gunman was a jihad trained militant in Syria and he did not act spontaneously or alone. It is clear the shooting at the Jewish Museum marks a new chapter in the Euro-jihad phenomenon.
The arrest of the French suspect suggests there is a real possibility that Europeans fighting in Syria could return to target their homeland.
Unfortunately, what the young European fundamentalists are trying to do in Syria, an Islamic state, they might also try to do it in Europe.
Two decades after a relatively safe period in the EU, are we once again confronting terror?
The prompt action of French police, arresting the jihadist just 24 hours after the attack, is of course evidence that Europe is not completely bare in front of this new danger.
France, a country with the highest estimated number of youth fighting in Syria (about 700), passed new measures in April aimed at preventing French nationals from joining the jihad.
In the Netherlands, the government has already revoked the passports of 11 of its nationals. It is estimated there are about 100 Dutch nationals currently fighting in Syria, about 10 were killed and 20 have so far returned. In the United Kingdom, the government has also started to revoke passports under a “Royal Prerogative.”
In any case, police action and deep controls can avoid some terrorist incidents or at least reduce the effectiveness of such groups, but they cannot solve the problem.
In the mid-1960s, the challenges of European societies pushed youth to the streets and many of them to a form of armed political struggle marked by several terrorist attacks. Many European countries paid the price of struggling to cope with years of terrorism.
Thirty years later, Islamic fundamentalism and Jihadist appear to be attracting new recruits from among the most desperate members of the next generation. European leaders need to understand they cannot solve the problem with repressive politics, but with politics that promote social integration and create employment opportunities. The weakest citizens need to once again believe there is a privilege related to being a European citizen.