One of the hotly debated topics among counterterrorism professionals in recent years is the extent of radicalization among diaspora Muslims in the West. This debate is often polemical, with allegations of “Jihad denial” being countered by claims of “Islamophobia,” and has taken on major importance In Europe, where Muslim minorities are increasingly restive and are sending young men to fight in the Syrian jihad in numbers that are deeply worrying to European security officials.
The Amsterdam daily NRC Handelsblad has an interesting report on the extent of radicalization among Muslims in Western Europe that has several disturbing revelations. The piece, by Frank Vermeulen and titled “Muslim Fundamentalism in Western Europe No Marginal Phenomenon”, is translated below (and it should be noted that Handelsblad is a left-of-center paper, not prone to Islamophobia):
Muslim fundamentalism is not, as is often thought, a marginal phenomenon in Western Europe. From research in the Netherlands and five other European countries, it now emerges that two-thirds of questioned Muslims consider their religious laws more important that the laws of the countries in which they live.
Aside from this, three-quarters feel that the Koran can only be interpreted one way. In addition, Dutch Muslims are stricter with respect to the teachings than Muslims in Germany, for example.
Sociologist Ruud Koopmans, director of the migration research group of the WZB Social Science Research Center Berlin that published that information this week, says that the difference between Dutch and German Muslims is remarkable. That is to say that it gives the lie to the prevailing idea that fundamentalism is a reaction to institutional exclusion, he explains today in NRC Handelsblad:
“And that is evidently not so, as Muslims have noticeably fewer rights in Germany than in the Netherlands. To put it more strongly, not in one single European country do Muslims have as many rights as in the Netherlands.”
Survey Among 9,000 Turkish and Moroccan Migrants
The research is based on a rather broad telephone survey among 9,000 Turkish and Moroccan migrants and 3,000 native people as a comparison group with respect to the consequences of labor migration in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Austria and Sweden in 2008.
In the interview with this newspaper, Koopmans warns that fundamentalist views mostly go together with hostile images of homosexuals and Jews, for example:
“There are disturbingly large numbers of Muslims — 45 percent — who feel that Jews are not to be trusted. A similar number believe that the West wants to annihilate Islam.
Naturally there are 20 percent of natives in the Netherlands who believe the reverse — that the Muslims want to annihilate the West — and that is where Geert Wilders gets his votes. In an absolute sense, that is more people. That is also a big problem. Yet those hostile images are much more widespread among Muslims.”
Hostile Image Can Be a Growth Medium for Violence
Apart from this, Koopmans thinks that this fundamentalist hostile image can be a growth medium for violence:
“Fortunately, of course, only a fraction of all the millions of Muslims in Europe are prepared to cross over to violence — but at this moment, from all over Western Europe, we have some 2,000 jihad fighters who are learning to handle heavy weapons in Syria. When they are likely to come back traumatized, that is something about which to worry.”