Whilst security agencies in Europe foil terrorist plots almost every day, the recent large surge in terrorist attacks serve as a reminder that more work needs to be done to tackle terrorism and its root causes
Prerna Lau Sian from London
The recent year has sadly seen a spate of terrorist attacks in Europe. Starting from the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 to the attack on a church in Rouen, France on July 26, 2016, European cities have been plagued with terrorist activities.
Whilst these atrocities have been linked to the growing amount of refugees entering Europe, the alarming facts are that European-born citizens have conducted a large number of these attacks. Seven of the nine who carried out the Paris attacks were European nationals where the majority of perpetrators and ringleaders were born in Belgium. The four terrorists who conducted the 7/7 bombings in London were British born. In addition to Europe, Omar Mateen who murdered 49 people in a gay nightclub in Florida nightclub and pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State, was born in the USA.
The West is facing a dilemma where its nationals are being radicalised on their own soil. ISIS managed to attract a large number of British and French citizens to travel to Syria and take up arms. According to British authorities, at least 800 British Muslims have gone to the Middle East to join ISIS. The 2015 Global Terrorism Index compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace states that nearly 1,800 French Muslims joined the Islamic State. In addition to those that have returned from Syria, MI5 (UK based Security Service) claimed in September 2015 that it was monitoring more than 3,000 British-born Muslim extremists. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently stated that France faced a threat from an estimated 15,000 home-grown radicals.
The question we are then posed with is ‘why are so many European nationals prone to Islamic extremism and what should governments be doing to combat this endemic? Dr Amjad Abu El Ezz, expert in International Relations and European studies and Professor at An-Najah National University in Palestine, told Organiser “There are more than 44 million Muslims living in Europe who are still mentally and emotionally connected to their countries of origin. With technological advancements and increased globalisation, Europeans have easy access to the terrible images of death and destruction occurring in Syria, Iraq and Palestinian territories. This then makes it extremely easy for terrorist organisations to recruit younger generations who feel a sense of duty to act in light of the images and rhetoric they are told. There are also large Muslim populations both in the UK and France who are living in ghetto communities and do not integrate into society. If more programmes and schemes were made compulsory to integrate Muslims communities into Western society and they were provided with more job opportunities, they would not feel a stronger sense of belonging elsewhere and terrorist organisations would find it harder to recruit them. Furthermore, Western society is framed around the freedom of an individual, which could come at the expense of families and schools. As we saw with the large number of students who travelled to Syria, families and schools found it difficult to stop them.”
Faith schools in the UK also risk preventing community integration, as there have been instances where these schools have served as a forum for dissemination of extremist beliefs. In June this year, the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted), criticised Darul Uloom Islamic High School in Birmingham, after inspectors found leaflets that claimed music and dancing were “acts of the devil”. A recent Ofsted report has rated a strict Islamic school as “inadequate” and said its gender segregation policy made girls feel inferior. Ofsted inspectors have also said that the school's own pupils had criticised its gender segregation policy which separates boys and girls from the age of ten for all lessons, lunchtimes, clubs and trips. However, in spite of this, a high court judge has given the Islamic school special protection where the press have been forced to censor its name and location.
The UK Government has also identified prisons as breeding hubs for terrorist ideologies and activities and has announced that new units will be built inside some of the UK's highest security jails. These units will only hold inmates with extremist views who promote terror and violence. This announcement was prompted after fears that recently imprisoned hate preacher, Anjem Choudary, would radicalise other inmates in prison. Despite these new units being sealed off from the main prison, extremists will not always be isolated from each other. The issue with radicalision in prisons is not restricted to the UK, as it is thought that several of the terrorists involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks, were radicalised when they had previously served prison sentences.
Instances such as the above in addition to the rapid influx of recent immigrants are also pushing members of the public towards right-winged parties. Speaking to Organiser, Dr Charles Tannock MEP, Foreign Affairs and Human Rights Spokesman for the UK Conservative delegation and founder of the European Parliament Friends of India stated, “Although the risk to individual members of the public in Europe is statistically very low, the perception, particularly in major capitals like Paris and Brussels, is that the security situation is dangerous and the threat all too real, particularly as they see armed soldiers patrolling the streets. This in conjunction with the very large number of refugees and migrants that have arrived in Europe from the Middle East and North Africa has added further to a perception of disruption to social cohesion and security, fuelling populist right-wing movements from the AfD (The Alternative for Germany) in Germany to the Front Nationale in France.”
Whilst security agencies in Europe are foiling terrorist plots every day, the recent large surge in terrorist attacks in Europe still serves as a reminder that more work needs to be done to tackle terrorism and its root causes. Whilst focus needs to be given to European nationals to integrate them better into mainstream society, authorities need to ensure that the same mistakes aren’t made with the current influx of migrants.
(The writer is a London based Barrister(NP), Broadcaster on Nusound Radio 92FM and works in