Like a shattered winter night’sdream, Europe has rudely woken up to the harsh realities of Islamic terrorism, which India has been facing for the last many decades. Nearly 200 dead in the deadly Madrid blasts brought instant change in the government as people pooled in against the ruling ?pro-Bush? conservatives. In Europe widespread angry protests marked the renewed resolve of the European people against Islamic barbarism.
On March 16, the whole of Europe observed a three-minute silence in the memory of those citizens who were killed in the Madrid blasts. Here in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, president of the EU rubbed shoulders with the common Belgium office-goers and housewives at exact 12 noon. Many were seen wiping tears from their eyes. I made it a point to attend the silent protest and offer my condolences to the innocent victims.
?You seem to be very eager to join us,? an EU official remarked.
?Yes, as a Hindu I can well imagine the pain and sorrow of those who face barbaric Islamic terrorism; so I would like to register my sympathies with you,? I replied.
With anger writ large on their faces, the thousands who had gathered opposite the European parliament and the Belgium King’sPalace, symbolised a new resolve of the people. It was clear that Europe’srelations with the Muslims would never be the same again, in spite of the expressed hymns in praise of a peaceful Islam.
The basis of European Union is the underlying unifying current in the Christian civilisation, as one researcher in the Belgium Parliament admitted. ?Differences in the languages are important but we could never have achieved this union in the absence of a very vocal civilisational unity. Maybe in your case, the economic interdependence and cultural similarities would help forge a similar unity among SAARC countries,? quipped the president of EU.
Immediately after the Madrid blasts, a European Security Strategy document released by the office of Mr Chris Patten, a former Hong Kong Governor and presently European Union Commissioner for External Relations, said that among other things, ?Terrorism for one, takes advantage of this era of more open borders and integrated economies and two, undermines the openness and tolerance of societies.?
The document, I received in Brussels clearly admits for the first time that, ?numerous EU policies contribute to the fight against terrorism, but have not been developed or designated specifically as counter-terrorism actions.?
A South Asian expert in EU told me rather bluntly that European societies are hesitant to do anything which would affect their present style of luxurious living. Some countries like Belgium are even turning a blind eye towards the large number of illegal Muslim immigrants coming from Pakistan, Morocco and Tunisia. In Brussels, most downtown restaurants and gift shops are now owned by Pakistanis. But, interestingly, they name their hotels and restaurants with Indian names as Europeans are more attracted to things Indian rather than to Bangladeshi or Pakistani. The Madrid blasts have also started a debate in Europe regarding how to deal with a large number of Muslim immigrants and whether the liberalism of European societies should also be extended to them. At the same time, the sudden swing in favour of Socialists in Spain, on the eve of polls after the deadly blasts, has in a sense boosted the morale of the Islamic terrorist organisations and made them feel that they can get away with anything.
?Your government is working on adopting liberal policies towards Pakistan and Muslims; that’sa good point for the Socialists of Europe to adopt while engaging in talks with separatist organisations,? one of the South Asian experts said, with a twinkle in his eyes. ?After all Mr L.K. Advani, known in the West as a hardliner, is talking to the Kashmir separatist group, Hurriyat.? That India’sVajpayee line of diplomacy would also influence European thinking was an amazing fact that emerged in the capital of the EU. In spite of an outward show of liberal policies, there is hardly any doubt in the minds of decision makers in the EU that in the coming days, they will have to adopt much more harsh and uncompromising steps against Muslim fundamen-talists. The Christian right is also putting all the pressure on EU member states, which are known for their hard views regarding the ?immigrant-supported spread of Islam in Europe.? The International Herald Tribune, dated March 17 has put on its front-page banner a survey report which conveys a majority view of the Europeans who desire a more independent Europe in its decisions regarding security and diplomatic affairs. It says, ?One year after the war in Iraq, European distrust of the US has intensified with sharp doubts among America’sclosest allies on the Bush administration’smotives in the war on terror.?
The survey showed that the anger against America in Muslim countries is still so fierce that the majorities in three Muslim countries surveyed?Jordan, Pakistan and Morocco?feel that suicide bombings against Americans and other westerners in Iraq are justified.
How much impact will it have on the US’salready strained relations with many of the European countries is yet to be seen, but one thing is sure?the Madrid blasts have shaken up Europe and without any explicit statements, Islamic societies in these countries have come under a new scanner of surveillance and suspicion.