European Union is suffering from a serious malaise called radicalisation from which it is all but easy to get rid of. What we are facing is neither a new phenomenon nor a new topic on the EU agenda but still as the process of radicalisation itself have lead to numerous forms of violences and extremist acts, EU and EU members has to enhance their collaboration to better face multiple new challenges.
On this regard on Wednesday, 1 February 2017 a conference co-hosted by European Foundation for Democracy and TRENDS Research & Advisory took place in Brussels. The discussion was build around the hot issue that concerns nowadays public opinion, the radicalisation and ideology as the driving force behind it. Why are we still speak about radicalisation? What have been done so far and which should be the next step?
The radicalisation question is of a great importance of European Union as it is for Arabic world. The conference tried to provide some answers to these questions and beyond those answers, it generated a new question concerning the driving force behind radicalisation. Radicalisation is a process and as such it evolves in new forms which represent new threats to our security and our values.
The ideology behind radicalisation
Richard Burchill, Director of Research & Engagement, TRENDS Research & Advisory, stressed great importance of the ideology behind radicalisation process. It would be almost impossible to tackle the radicalisation without understanding what motivate radical islamists and who are the motivators. Speaking about the ideology that lies behind radicalisation Burchill explains “ ideology is about world view, about how we want to live our life, about legitimate authority, but when it comes to religious ideology the situation gets more complicated”. And, paraphrasing Burchill, what further complicates the situation is the question of spirituality that enters in play. Concepts like morality or the absolute final end linked to the law of god, on the one side make it harder addressing the issue of radicalisation and on the other side should make us reflect on the importance that religion has in our daily life. Thus, ideology and furthermore the politicalisation of religious ideology feed the radicalisation process. How to get out of all of this? Burchill suggests acknowledging the importance of religion for both muslims and christians as the first step followed by two key points on which both parts have to work on: knowledge and tolerance.
According to Dr. Ahmed Al Haml, President & Founder, TRENDS Research & Advisory, notwithstanding talking a lot about ideology and the way if effects radicalisation, we (European Union) have not reach a final conclusion yet. The common error we make is identifying certain products of radicalisation as Daesh or various terrorist attacks as the problem while “speaking of Daesh as the problem is not correct, Daesh is just the outcome”. Another mistake we do is making no difference between the religion itself and political party that uses religion as a tool to gather political consensus. Though, once again knowledge seems to be the correct answer.
For Dr. Saad Amrani, Chief Commissioner of Brussels Police Department, the problem is not knowing the real “diagnosis” of our diseases or as he puts it: “we are loosing time, nobody is going to finish up the job of the diagnosis. Just after the correct diagnosis we can start working on the remedies”.
The trend has shifted from ‘vivre ensemble’ to muslim brotherhood
Dr. Saad Amrani, referring to the Morocco community living in Brussels argues that the relationship between them and the Belgians that once was a ‘living together’ in a community respecting each other beliefs and traditions, have been replace by another kind of relationship characterised by dissociation, ghettoisation, staying away from the rest of society.
“There is no place for people, Amrani continues, to feel surprised”. This shifting of trends didn’t happen from one day to another, it was visible 1-2 decades before, when migrants’ children used to leave schools. “We have warned about the new trends but nobody listened to us, so no place for being surprised” he says. Instead of asking ourselves how could it happen let’s address the real problem, what’s behind the radicalisation to not make the same mistakes we did in the past.
Education as a tool against radicalisation
Education may be of a crucial importance in preventing radicalisation. In certain neighbourhoods of Brussels we find kids who left the school to use the Amrani words ‘intellectually dis-equipped’. It becomes very easy for these kids to be manipulated as they aren’t intellectually able to check to search and check information by themselves. Once they listen to somebody else predicting certain religious ideology and calling it the law of god, they can easily believe it and take it for granted. This is a reality we have to find against, and the tableau is getting more complicated because of living in a digital era where information (and radicalised information) can easily spread all over the globe. Internet, numerous tv channels and social medias despite making our daily life easier have increased the proportions of radicalised information circulating. Thus, whoever or whatever entity manage to control certain information can literally control many minds. Mr. Amrani argues that more than 90% of these sources is controlled by the same software and using whatever tool to prevent or rehabilitate radicalised individuals without addressing the question of the software would be senseless in a medium/long – term strategy.
Refugees and radicalisation
Mohamad Khadam Aljamee, Secretary of Union of Syrians Abroad, referring to refugees, stresses the fact that they have fled their country and their houses being under force. It remains the fear of raising radicalisation in refugee camps or from refugee groups but as he puts it: “ refugees are not the problem, the problem is how we deal with them”. Refugees are suffering people that know nothing about Europe or the hosting country, and are in need of care, in need of protection, in need of space and freedom to practice their religion. They have to learn a new culture, a new language, they have to learn how to integrate.
Thus, how should we deal with them? The answer according the Secretary of Union of Syrians Abroad is addressing this problem as soon as possible and not waiting for them to leave. We have to work with them asking first what they need and finding way to provide them help. More we work on doing our job less room will be left to those who try to manipulate refugees putting them on the wrong side of extremism.
In the recent years radicalisation and de-radicalisation have been hot topics on the EU agenda. What did cause this malaise, could it be prevented and most important how can we fight it?
During past 15 years the EU member states have been facing home-grown terrorism, radicalised groups or individuals, European citizens who decide to fight for Jihadist cause, various terrorist attacks in different European cities, etc. As radicalisation rose and spread very fast numerous strategies focus on the prevention and tackling it, mushroomed in every corner within the EU borders.
Sweden has put on place a programme to rehabilitate former Isis fighters and other extremists offering them well payed jobs, housing and education. It can be a good strategy but of course we need to wait some years to see the results. What is clear is that what EU member states have done so far need to be enhanced. Finding out what are the driving forces behind radicalisation have to be the first step to take. Morocco is using a three pillar strategy recognised by UN and the third pillar is about the restructuring of religion field. The moment has come for us as well take care of religion to address the religion issue. On regards to the importance religion has, Amrani adds, “If we don’t care of religion, religion will take care of us”.
Sooner we admit and recognise the role of religions in our lives, better it would be in tackling extremism and radicalisation issues. There is no doubt that religious ideology behind the radicalisation represents a big challenge for EU but what can be done is finding out more about what motivates radicalised individuals and what are their final goals in order to better address the question. “The era of being polite, being politically correct, of non mentioning the subject is ended”, Saad Amrani concludes.
It is clear that all available counter terrorism tools need to be enhanced. Efforts to prevent radicalisation are also needed more than ever before. Knowledge, tolerance and education are key notions in preventing extremism. Education of young people will help them to better integrate and as such more effort should be put on education programs all over the EU. Working on local and national level in preventing terrorism and radicalisation is helpful but the real solution to this problem should be a European one, a multidisciplinary European strategy , not just different fragmented answers coming from EU members.