Tuesday

4th Oct 2022

Opinion

EU needs politically proactive solution to Islamism

In the following days, Western society will engage in a discussion on how to respond to the terrorist attacks that took place in Paris and were carried out by the jihadists of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The right course of action is not the deployment of ground troops against ISIS, but unswerving political pressure on Islamist ideology in Europe.

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  • 'The main priority must be strong action against Islamism on the continent' (Photo: FreedomHouse2)

The attacks in Paris were, among other things, a retaliation by ISIS against the French bombings in the Middle East. However, France and other Western countries should not counter-react by sending in ground troops, as some politicians have already suggested they do.

The main reason for not invading ISIS with ground troops is not spurred by worries that Western countries would provoke the Islamists even more. Nor is it sparked by distaste for a larger military confrontation. Nato and the EU states should continue to support all the local forces fighting ISIS.

The main reason for keeping Western armies out of the Middle East is that any military intervention on the ground could lead to a peace too fragile to sustain, while our main problem is in Europe and not overseas.

The main priority must be strong action against Islamism on the European continent.

European countries will have to further increase the number of police officers, intelligence officers and other members of security forces to stop more attacks. Consistent control over European territory and peoples is necessary, to allay the growing uncertainty and fear in European societies.

If governments are incapable of ensuring security, it is not unlikely that citizens will take the law into their own hands, which could result in attacks on Muslims and mosques. This must be avoided and prevented.

Although the quality and quantity of security forces is increasing, the forces fail to address the causes of jihadist attacks. As such, they will never be able to prevent all of the attacks.

The strategic problem is not the existence of particular terrorist organisations. These can be fought by police on EU territory or by the military overseas. The fundamental problem is the fact that Islamic ideology is spreading freely across Europe. One terrorist group may be disbanded, but merely gives rise to a new one.

A fundamental problem of European governments is a highly inconsistent approach to Islamism as a political ideology.

Across the continent, thousands of foreign fighters (Europol estimates up to 10,000) and hundreds of jihadists have a safe haven within the Muslim populations, parts of which are anti-democratic and often express anti-Western attitudes.

Islamism displays characteristics of an ideological movement and the number of its supporters continues to grow. A new ISIS video urges European Islamists who are unable to travel to Syria to fight the infidels in Europe: “Poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah.”

European leaders must be able to precisely and decisively distinguish Islam as a religion, protected by the freedom of religion, from Islamism as a hateful ideology introducing principles that are not in agreement with the democratic rule of law in Europe.

Manifestations of extremism, including hatred against those who are not “true Muslims,” the hatred of Jews or homosexuals, the enforcement of an unequal status for women, or the approval of brutal punishments according to radical interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, have to be not only rejected, but also prevented from spreading, and its advocates must be prosecuted.

This could be achieved by a consistent approach to current legislation.

Working with European political leaders, the representatives and members of the Muslim communities in the EU must reject Islamism as well.

They have to introduce European Muslims to a form of Islam that is compatible with the constitutions and values of European countries. The role of government will include constant monitoring of the process.

Strong action against radical imams, which has already been taken in the United Kingdom, and generally firmer supervision over mosques or Muslim organizations and associations, is required.

Moreover, it is necessary to prevent foreign influence on European Muslims, not only from the territory controlled by the Islamic state, but especially from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are sources of Salafism and other radical forms of Islamism.

A key aspect of this course of action will be a ban on financing European Muslim organizations and activities from abroad.

This approach was adopted by Austria, where politicians introduced an Islam Law known as Islamgesetz, according to which an education at the State University of Vienna will be compulsory for imams. The course is meant to ensure their respect for European values ​​and liberal-democratic constitutions.

When it comes to fighting ISIS, the Western countries should adopt the policy of containment, until a sustainable solution for the territory of Syria and Iraq is reached.

European countries have to offer military, economic and political support to other counties in this region, namely Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, in fighting ISIS, in fighting the spread of Islamism, and in caring for refugees.

However, the priority is to stop the spread of Islamism and jihadism among Europeans.

Radko Hokovsky is executive director of European Values, a think tank in Prague

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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