[VIEWPOINT]Europe’s homegrown terrorists

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[VIEWPOINT]Europe’s homegrown terrorists

Traditionally, the dominant Western interpretation of Islamist terrorism has been a “roots-based” theory. The explanation went like this: They bomb us here because they feel terrible at home. They bring down airplanes and office towers in the West because they want to topple regimes in their own countries, to get the Israelis out of the West Bank and the Americans out of Saudi Arabia, or to establish an Islamic caliphate under the green flag of the Prophet throughout the Middle East.
Look again ― especially at the massacre in Madrid’s Atocha railroad station in 2004, and, more recently, at “7/7,” the bus and subway bombings in London on July 7, and the failed attempt two weeks later.
Those killers were not Palestinians, Iraqis or Chechens trying to achieve in Europe what they could not get at home. Though they were Arabs, Pakistanis or Moroccans, they did not fly in from abroad. They lived among us Europeans in the first or second generation, and most of them carried passports of their new countries. They were us, so to speak, or at least pretended to be us.
A recently published paper by Robert S. Leiken and Steve Brooks has assembled statistics based on a sample of 373 Islamist terrorists. Forty-one percent carried a passport of the European Union or another Western nation. The largest group of the 373 hailed from North Africa (36 percent). Among Muslim immigrants in Europe, North Africans make up the largest group.
This surprising turn requires a new ― and painful ― explanation. What is it that makes a young Pakistani commit the most heinous of crimes ― the murder of innocents ― in his adopted country? Normally, immigrants go from A to B because they want to leave squalor and oppression in order to enjoy freedom and prosperity in their new homeland. This is why “new” Americans are often more nationalistic than the old-timers.
The young men with their backpack bombs presumably came to Europe to make better lives for themselves. But something must have happened on their journey to modernity ― something that either kept them in a cultural-psychological ghetto, or thrust them back into it ― into a “parallel universe,” be it in London, Amsterdam or Madrid.
What cut this journey short? When you are part of society, when you rise and prosper, you are not likely to fall back on a perverted ideology that turns you into a killer. You need not seek happiness in a twisted version of Islam that makes you believe that you are morally and culturally superior to the “decadent West.” If your self-respect is intact, you don’t listen to terror-recruiters trying to manipulate you with tales about conspiracies hatched by Jews, “crusaders” and Islam-hating imperialists.
This is why Europeans will have to take a closer look at the “parallel universes” in their big cities. This is not just a matter of better police work. Yes, they will have to look inside those mosques where hatred is preached and terrorists are being schooled. But there is much more. Above all, the Europeans will have to reassess the reigning ideology of multiculturalism that has pushed aside integration and assimilation.
The Dutch were quite shocked when a young Moroccan murdered one of their famous filmmakers on a busy street. Weren’t we maximally tolerant, they asked themselves? Didn’t we allow all these newcomers to live in their old ways, speak their native languages and celebrate their own religions? We left them in peace, and now they won’t leave us in peace. lt may well be that this combination of tolerance and indifference prepared the ground for the terrorist horrors that now afflict Europe.
Immigration is a fact in Europe; integration is not. Hence the renewed urgency of assimilation. We must encourage, indeed force, our immigrants to learn our language ― not because English or Dutch is better than Arabic, but because it is the indispensable tool for economic advancement.
We must teach them the cultural techniques that lead them out of their ghettos. We must make sure that their children go to school and learn a profession. In short, we must change them from guests to stakeholders.
The reason is simple: Stakeholders don’t throw bombs. They stick to their customs, religions and food habits, but they start identifying with their new homeland.
In the U.S., this process has been working for 200 years. There is still Little Italy and Chinatown. But the second generation has moved uptown and into the suburbs, where they fly the American flag on Independence Day. It is high time that Europe learned from America how to turn outsiders into insiders. Multiculturalism, though well-meaning, raises the walls against integration, especially when coupled with indifference.
If terror, as this analysis suggests, is homegrown, we should not look for a solution in the Middle East. After decades of neglect, Europeans must finally start to transform the strangers in their midst into citizens.

* The writer is the publisher-editor of Die Zeit.


by Josef Joffe

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