May 7th 2016

The Making of Euro-Jihadism


"........the Islam scholar Tariq Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is a Swiss citizen and a resident of the United Kingdom.........argues that Islamic ethics and values should be injected into the European system. Europe would then not just tolerate Islam, but actually embrace it as an integral part of itself.

The problem with Ramadan’s vision is that Europe is an overwhelmingly secular continent, with a profoundly forward-thinking approach to ethics. Islamic societies, by contrast, are both deeply religious and deeply embedded in the past."


MADRID – The Belgian historian Henri Pirenne linked Europe’s birth as a Christian continent in the eighth century to its rupture with Islam. Pirenne probably would never have expected a Muslim ghetto in Brussels to emerge, much less become a hub of jihadism, with marginalized and angry young Muslims revolting against Europe from within its own borders.

Divorce is not an option these days. But nor is the kind of marriage that the Islam scholar Tariq Ramadan advocates. Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is a Swiss citizen and a resident of the United Kingdom who argues that Islamic ethics and values should be injected into the European system. Europe would then not just tolerate Islam, but actually embrace it as an integral part of itself.

The problem with Ramadan’s vision is that Europe is an overwhelmingly secular continent, with a profoundly forward-thinking approach to ethics. Islamic societies, by contrast, are both deeply religious and deeply embedded in the past. When Islamists speak of political or social reform, they are typically looking backward, hoping to resurrect a time when core European principles – from gender equality to gay marriage – were repudiated. Even Muslims who support the modernization of Islam would typically stop well short of Europe’s ethical vision.

The flaws in Ramadan’s proposed solution to Euro-jihadism mirror the flaws in his explanation for the phenomenon, which he attributes largely to Europe’s involvement in the wars in the Middle East, its supposed collusion with Israel’s suppression of the Palestinians, and its support of Arab autocrats. “We cannot,” he writes, “support dictatorships … be silent when civilians are massacred south of our borders, and hope that we will not receive a response to the injustice and humiliation we have provoked.”

But it is the United States that launched wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, offers unconditional support to Israel, and has repeatedly propped up Arab autocrats. And it is Europe that has consistently criticized these policies – often harshly. Yet America is not being subjected to a major surge of jihadist sentiment within its borders.

It might have helped that US President Barack Obama backed away from some of these policies. When the Arab Spring uprisings began, for example, he was quick to cut support for Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, allowing protesters – inspired by the Western model of democracy – to secure regime change. The return to autocracy in Egypt in 2013, via Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s coup d’état, certainly was not aided by the US or Europe, both of which supported the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood.

Europe has offered even more direct help to Arab countries in recent years. If it were not for Europe’s military intervention, Libyans would still be living under the tyrannical Muammar el-Qaddafi. True, Europe could have done more to prevent the ensuing chaos in Libya. But the people of Libya surely must take responsibility for the proliferation of competing militias that refuse to unite to save their state from total collapse.

More broadly, though the West – especially the US – has made grave policy errors in the Arab world over the last 50 years, external powers cannot be blamed entirely for the region’s meltdown. That is the result of a profound civilizational crisis – one that can be redressed only by the people of the Arab world.

If Europe’s foreign policy is not responsible for the Arab world’s current turmoil, it certainly cannot be the reason for the rise of jihadism within its own borders. The real problem lies at home: a disastrous deficit of effective policies related to social justice, education, housing, and employment for young European Muslims. Marginalization generates frustration, which is subsequently fed by growing Islamophobia and the rise of raucous right-wing movements throughout the continent.

This link is apparent in the fact that the majority of European jihadists come from underprivileged backgrounds. Not particularly well versed in the true teachings of Islam, and lacking opportunities to improve their lives, they become easy prey for extremists. Jihadism, with its absolute certainty and grand mission, offers a sense of purpose, pride, and identity – not to mention adventure – and an outlet for their anger against the “home” that has denied them those things.

The story of America’s Muslims is the measure of Europe’s failure. Like most Americans, Muslims in the US maintain a certain amount of faith in the American dream. They are mostly middle class, and, despite all the talk about rising economic inequality, they have not given up on the belief that, in the US, hard work and initiative are rewarded.

America is a country of immigrants, with a dynamic economy that has enabled newcomers, time and again, to achieve great success. In Europe, by contrast, improving one’s social standing has always been very difficult; and, at a time of economic stagnation and staggeringly high unemployment, it is not getting any easier.

Socially, America also offers something to Muslims that Europe does not. Its fundamentally religious culture enables Muslims to retain their identity to a far greater extent than in secular Europe. Indeed, America’s core values – personal responsibility and constitutional patriotism – can be easier for Muslims to swallow than Europe’s more aggressively secular brand of liberalism. As a result, integration and assimilation tend to be easier for Muslims in America.

All of this suggests that Europe must look inward to address homegrown jihadism effectively. This does not mean that it should temper its secularism, much less its liberal values. Rather, Europe must breathe life into its own “European dream,” ensuring that all people have access to real opportunities to improve their lives. Otherwise, it will face a lost generation of millions of young Europeans – Muslim and otherwise.




Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2016.
www.project-syndicate.org

 


This article is brought to you by Project Syndicate that is a not for profit organization.

Project Syndicate brings original, engaging, and thought-provoking commentaries by esteemed leaders and thinkers from around the world to readers everywhere. By offering incisive perspectives on our changing world from those who are shaping its economics, politics, science, and culture, Project Syndicate has created an unrivalled venue for informed public debate. Please see: www.project-syndicate.org.

Should you want to support Project Syndicate you can do it by using the PayPal icon below. Your donation is paid to Project Syndicate in full after PayPal has deducted its transaction fee. Facts & Arts neither receives information about your donation nor a commission.

 

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: ".......like Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "
Jan 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, if cornered, any populist might resort to Trump’s endgame methods: trying to coerce elites into committing fraud to prevent a transfer of power, or deploying right-wing extremists on the ground to intimidate lawmakers. These desperate acts signaled Trump’s weakness. But it is important to note that most Republicans still did not disown Trump even when confronted with his blatant lawlessness on January 6. ... Other right-wing populists may well take notice of this fact. The recent events in the United States have shown that elites who are prepared to collaborate with authoritarians will tolerate quite a lot in the end. This ignominious precedent is especially likely to hold true in other countries where crony capitalism has implicated the business community in illegal behavior."