BERLIN – Europe’s timid approach to Islamic terrorism imploded last week with the horrific jihadi-animated murder of 17 men and women in Paris, including most of the cartoonists at the Charlie Hebdo weekly. “It is a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam,” Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared, in an uncharacteristic form for a European leader, avoiding euphemisms.
Rewind to 2006. After Charlie Hebdo re-published Danish cartoons lampooning Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, France’s then-conservative leaning President Jacques Chirac criticized the weekly’s action as a “manifest provocation.” His soggy response, it can be argued, was met with a firebombing of Charlie Hebdo’s office in 2011. The newspaper had put the Prophet on its cover as the “guest editor.”
To confront radical Islam in Europe, Muslim politicians and leaders must first confront raging anti-Western hatred and anti-Semitism within Muslim communities.
Desperately needed in Europe right now—and from the Obama administration—is straight talk about the ideology animating the murders of scores of Europeans. “Islam belongs to Germany,” Chancellor Angela Merkel declared this week. While her point is well taken about the plurality of religions in Germany, her administration has not yet internalized the lethal threat of radical manifestations of Islam.
Take for example the Salafist strand of extremist Sunni Islam. Germany's latest domestic intelligence agency termed it the “most dynamic Islamic movement” in the Federal Republic. The number of Salafists climbed from roughly 3,800 in 2011 to 5,500 in 2013. More than 500 hardcore German Islamists have travelled to Syria to fight for terrorist groups. Some 150 German jihadis are already back in Germany. The Lebanese terrorist entity Hezbollah, which murdered six people in Bulgaria in 2012, has 950 active members in Germany. Iran’s regime, the leading state-sponsor of terrorism, is Hezbollah’s sponsor.
To her credit, Merkel said in 2010 that multiculturalism has failed, and called for greater integration of German Muslims.
While major European leaders remain reticent about challenging incorrigibly reactionary views among Islamists, some no-nonsense rhetoric emerged this week from the Moroccan-born Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb. “It is incomprehensible that you can turn against freedom. But if you don’t like freedom, for heaven’s sake pack your bags and leave,” he told Dutch Muslims. Aboutaleb’s counterpart in London, Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson, said the Dutch Labor Party’s Aboutaleb went “straight to the point” and “that is the voice of the Enlightenment, of Voltaire.”
To confront radical Islam in Europe, Muslim politicians and leaders must first confront raging anti-Western hatred and anti-Semitism within Muslim communities. There have been small-scale attempts over the years.
Germany’s Green Party politician Cem Özdemir pushed for Muslim leaders to accept Israel’s existence and actively seek to rope in anti-Semitism within their communities. His attempt proved to be largely futile in light of violent anti-Israel mass demonstrations over the summer featuring tens of thousands of German Muslims and Leftists.
Özdemir’s and Aboutaleb’s efforts, however, are still barely bleeps on the monitor of Muslim political leaders seeking to change radical thinking.
Europe’s long-standing concessionary bargaining with domestic radical Islamists represents a deeply flawed strategy. Just last month, an EU court ruled that the Sunni Hamas organization, which is responsible for the deaths of scores of civilians in Israel, should be removed from the EU terror list.
Appeasement has produced self-censorship because of the fear of Islamic attacks. A natural outgrowth of placating Islamic extremists is a ballooning number of additional radicals.
Prime Minister Valls’ declaration of war on radical Islam must be extended into a European “long war” on the mushrooming radicalization of Muslims embracing terrorist ideologies across the Continent and in the United Kingdom.
Europe can recover from its sad state. After all, with the aid of the United States, a free Western and Central Europe defeated Soviet Communism in Eastern Europe.
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal