Monday

23rd Apr 2018

Opinion

Islamism in the EU: a difficult debate

  • Far-right protest in UK (Photo: Gavin Lynn)

Terrorist attacks committed by jihadists in France in January have stirred public debate on the relation between Islam and Islamism and on relations with the Muslim population in Europe.

On one side, our leaders assure us the criminals have nothing to do with Islam.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

On the other, populist voices say Islam is a religion of violence and that all Muslims are a potential threat.

Still others say that to hold any debate on the subject alienates people and plays into the hands of extremists.

But if responsible politicians don’t take part in this discussion with one another and with the general public, fear and ignorance will lead to more votes for far-right parties and deeper divisions.

Let’s make one thing clear: both points of view - that Islam has nothing to do with Islamism, or that they’re the same thing - are untenable. The first one pretends there’s no problem. The second one says it’s unsolvable.

French president Francois Hollande fell into the first trap when he said the Charlie Hebdo terrorists have nothing to do with Islam.

That’s the politically correct view.

That’s the view of leaders who want to reassure people that tougher security measures alone will solve the problem.

But it is obvious that since the last big terrorist attacks in Madrid and London, the number of radicalised Muslims in Europe has increased and there is more at stake than a mere criminal problem for the police and intelligence. There is no doubt the terrorists arise from Muslim communities and their acts are based on certain interpretations of Islam.

It’s equally untrue to say - the populist line - that Muslims per se pose a threat.

The overwhelming majority of Muslims are decent people who don’t condone violence and who adhere to moderate, or even secular, currents of thought in Islamic culture.

If we accept the discourse that Islam is a malevolent monolith which wants to bring down the Western liberal civilisation we create 20 million false enemies in Europe.

Meanwhile, there’s another common fallacy to consider.

We’re often told that jihadist radicals are the core of the problem.

It’s true that they are a concrete, immediate, and visible threat. But - and we don’t mean this to sound cynical vis-a-vis the victims of their crimes - the fight against terrorism is a tactical, or even a technical, issue.

At the moment, our security and intelligence services are not sufficiently equipped to cope with the problem.

But they know what they need to do and it’s a matter of time before their budgets, capabilities, and legal mandates are increased to adequate levels.

The strategic problem that we ought to consider is: Why are European Muslims prone to fundamentalist thinking, radicalisation, and hostility toward non-Muslim communities?

Of course, these elements exist in other minorities, or, indeed, in the European majority, which increasingly espouses extremist far-right and far-left views.

But we are analysing the Muslim minority, where sociological research shows that European Muslims are prone to these trends more than we’re happy to admit.

In his article, Religious Fundamentalism and Hostility against Outgroups, recently published in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Dutch sociologist Ruud Koopmans notes that Islamic fundamentalism is widespread in Europe.

In a survey carried out with respondents from six Western European countries in 2008, almost 60 percent of Muslims agreed with the idea they should return to the roots of Islam.

Sixty five percent say religious law (sharia) is more important for them than the law of the country in which they reside and 75 percent believe there is only one legitimate interpretation of the Koran.

At the same time, 57 percent of Muslims don’t want homosexual friends, 45 percent don’t trust Jews, and 54 percent believe the West wants to destroy Islam.

Analogous figures for Christian respondents are much lower, by a factor of more than 10.

This data is backed by other research, for instance, by the Pew Research Center. It underlines the fact that the preponderance toward fundamentalism among European Muslims and the hostile behaviour it breeds lie at the heart of the problem.

In this context, we have to diligently look for ways to support those tendencies among Muslims which lead to adherence to liberal democratic values.

The key and irreplaceable role in this effort will belong to Muslims themselves and especially to that moderate, liberal, or secular minority which rejects fundamentalism.

Radko Hokovsky is director of European Values, a Czech think-tank. Jakub Janda is deputy director

Bulgaria breaks Islamist propaganda network

Bulgaria, a transit country for the so-called foreign fighters traveling to and from Iraq and Syria, is in the process of dismantling a radical Islamist propaganda network of its own.

How to combat anti-Semitism and Islamophobia?

The deadly attacks in Paris and Copenhagen have served as a wake-up call to European policy makers of the escalating reality of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and racism in Europe

More commitment to renewables from Council, please

More and more consumers are likely to invest in solar panels in the future as it becomes simpler to produce one's own electricity, writes Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumer Organisation.

How to reset EU-Burma relations

Europe should go back to its pre-2012 policy, wipe away aid and trade benefits, and tie democratic efforts to the reinstatement of benefits.

News in Brief

  1. Commission will 'not shy away' from Malta killing repercussions
  2. EU Commission opens probe on Alitalia state loan
  3. Paris suspect given 20-year sentence for Brussels shoot-out
  4. Merkel and Pena Nieto praise EU-Mexico trade agreement
  5. Nahles elected new leader of Germany's SPD
  6. Report: EU budget to refocus on South
  7. Audit office: Brexit 'divorce' bill could be billions higher
  8. MEPs urge better protection for journalists

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  2. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  3. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  4. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  5. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  6. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  7. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  10. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  11. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia

Latest News

  1. 'Strong suspicion' of corruption in Council of Europe assembly
  2. France tightens immigration law, sparking division
  3. ECJ ruling set to end 10-year 'mouth tobacco' lobbying saga
  4. Whistleblowers, Syria and digital revolution This WEEK
  5. MEP friendship groups offer 'backdoor' for pariah regimes
  6. Macron and Merkel pledge euro reform
  7. Obscurity surrounds EU military fund's expert groups
  8. New EU party finance rules short circuit accountability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  2. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  3. Europea Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  4. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  5. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  6. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan
  7. World VisionSyria’s Children ‘At Risk of Never Fully Recovering', New Study Finds
  8. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMeets with US Congress Member to Denounce Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  9. Martens CentreEuropean Defence Union: Time to Aim High?
  10. UNESDAWatch UNESDA’s President Toast Its 60th Anniversary Year
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Condemns MEP Ana Gomes’s Anti-Semitic Remark, Calls for Disciplinary Action
  12. EPSUEU Commissioners Deny 9.8 Million Workers Legal Minimum Standards on Information Rights