18th Mar 2018


ISIS and the rise of Islamism: the bell also tolls for Europe

  • Tomas Zdechovsky - centre-right Czech MEP (Photo: Dandieczech)

The current situation in Syria and Iraq is, beside other things, a result of reluctance of the European countries to get involved in the region.

To the citizens of Muslim countries, this comes across as inactive observing of the massacres and atrocities caused by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

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  • "We cannot remedy past mistakes but we can learn our lesson in order to avoid future ones" (Photo: FreedomHouse2)

Through our television screens we witness the atrocities perpetrated by fanatical Islamists in Syria and Iraq. Many believe these events, taking place thousands of kilometres eastwards, do not concern them.

But the opposite is true.

We are involved in the current events in Syria and Iraq more than we care to admit. It is impossible to continue to play the role of a non-participating observer, especially since this is such an unstable but strategically important region.

Recently, we have heard about foreign fighters in Ukraine co-operating with the rebels. But we could also observe a similar phenomenon taking place to a larger extent in the Middle East.

According to the latest estimations by the International Centre for Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), there are 9,000 foreign fighters amongst the radical Islamists. Hundreds of these come from western Europe – the biggest number of foreign fighters are French nationals, followed by citizens from the UK, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Radicals brought up in Europe

British citizens were shocked by the news that American journalist James Wright Foley was executed by a terrorist with a London accent.

The question arises: how is it possible that a person, who had grown up in freedom and democracy, joined the side endorsing a hateful Islamic ideology? What explanation is there for such behaviour?

The main causes are frustration and a feeling of alienation. People coming from Muslim countries and young second or third generation Muslims are frustrated by the on-looker stance of European countries when it comes to Syria's civil war.

This is complemented by the feeling of alienation at home, as they are often torn between the culture their older relatives come from and the environment they grew up in.

The inactivity and helplessness of European nations and other players gave space for the rise of radical Islamism. The passive foreign policy of the European Union is to a large extent responsible for ISIS managing to seize substantial part of Syria and Iraq.

EU countries were not ready to do something about the civil war in Syria and abandoned the country to its fate. As Edmund Burke put it: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”.

We cannot remedy past mistakes but we can learn our lesson in order to avoid future ones. This is a time to ask how is it that young people feel alienated from the country they were born in.

One of the main tasks for EU leaders is to prevent the rise of radical Islamism and the establishment of new caliphates in the Muslim countries and Europe. But once again, its success will depend on the EU finding a common foreign and security policy.

The writer is a Czech centre-right Member of the European Parliament

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