Written by Majed Hussein
Repeated terrorist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Berlin, and Vienna... brutal massacres and cold-blooded killings here and there, several places and different times yet the perpetrator is often the same: a so-called radical Islamist. Every time I hear this painful news, a terrified voice inside my head questions why this happens! What are the victims guilty of? How can this be ended? And before that, how can one prevent this extremism in advance?
Undoubtedly, tackling extremism in general is an overly complex and intertwined process that requires many effective policies, legal and practical procedures. Although European governments have taken many steps and strengthened anti-terrorism legislation in recent years, these measures may not be sufficient. It is clear that greater attention must be paid to the preventive aspect of tackling the issue of extremism by focusing on the so-called “root-causes” of the problem, not waiting for the poisonous tree to bear its “fatal fruit”. In other words, the time has passed to wait for terrorism to happen to take decisive actions, rather it is time to nip this in the bud.
Explicitly and decisively, I urge here to combat the radical Islamic right in Europe, but I also claim that this must proceed in parallel with combating the non-Islamic extreme right. The fact that the “political or Christian” extreme right is one of the triggers and justifications for the existence of the Islamic extreme right in Europe cannot be overlooked. A sound mind cannot imagine democratic societies coexisting peacefully in the presence of an extremist wing, and it cannot be thought that only “the principles of secularism and pluralistic culture” laid down by Europe will guarantee the preservation of its national security, long-term stability, and distinct future.
I also call on the Islamic communities in Europe - including myself - to play a stronger role in combating radicalization. It is no longer acceptable to remain silent as Muslims “witnessing” what is happening without actively intervening to change it. It has become an urgent necessity for the Islamic communities in Europe to move on their own, to reject, fight and combat the “extremists” belonging to it by all possible means, and to work on consolidating the moderate orientation of Islam, based on the principle of coexistence. The fact that a few extremists keep distorting the whole image of the millions of Muslims in Europe, resulting in accusations of terrorism and extremism towards them, and even endangering their lives simply cannot be tolerated.
In the same context, I am of the opinion that effective security control over worshipping places must be devised by the European security services. Some of the worshipping places explicitly follow certain Islamic countries and groups, and they even raise their flags at the entrance. I myself saw the flag of an Islamic State at the entrance of mosques in Utrecht and Frankfurt. In a nutshell, the “Politicization of religion” and in particular using Islam as a “soft power” tool should no longer be acceptable.
It is worth mentioning that in order for this “security control” to be effective and to fulfil the desired objectives, it must be carried out by well-qualified employees who are able to understand and analyse various cultural and religious backgrounds, and most importantly for their mother tongue to be the native language of immigrants. Languages contain words that have very specific meanings that radicals sometimes use in their sermons, those words cannot be translated literally into English or any other language, so once they are translated by the meaning they turn into other words. For instance, The imams of the mosques preach in Turkish, Bosnian or Arabic, and it becomes difficult to monitor these sermons and translate them correctly and compare words of incitement and hate speech between the two languages, as the connotations of the words differ, as well as religious texts that carry many meanings.
On the other hand, talking about refugees or the “newcomers” to Europe, and Muslims specifically, the objectives of the “integration” process in European societies must be re-evaluated and new mechanisms have to be applied to ensure and activate a “well-balanced” integration. The integration should focus on the consolidation of “human and moral values and concepts of coexistence” among newcomers. Defining the ‘integration’ in a superficial way must be stopped, the integrated person should not necessarily drink alcohol or eat pork, for example. Trying to target or cancel the cultural or religious identities they came with will create a wide gap between them and the new society they join. This should be avoided as it will surely pave the way to transform them into potential radicalised risks to society.
Also, it is necessary to devise new mechanisms that ensure the employment of newcomers at a maximum speed. Many “simple” jobs as working in factories or in public parks can be worked out without the need for contact or communication using a specific language. Here I am not claiming that newcomers should not learn the official language(s) of the country, but I insist that these people should not be left to years of feeling useless, self-loathing, and financial distress. Therefore, the policy of “work and learn the language” must be followed simultaneously, not the policy of “learn the language and then work”. The energy of the new youth must be positively invested in before they are polarized by extremist groups to exploit them negatively. I would like to end by saying that combating Islamic extremism is a shared collaborative responsibility. National security as a whole cannot be preserved without all of us working together. This fact must be clear and realised.
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