This Review was first published in Foreign Poloicy Journal 2014 12 06
Eurojihad - Patterns of Islamist Radicalization and Terrorism in Europe. Angel Rabasa and Cheryl Benard. Cambridge University Press, NY, 2015.
The obvious objective of this book is “to identify patterns of Islamist radicalization and terrorism in Europe,” wherein radicalization is the “rejection of the key dimensions of modern democratic culture at the center of the European value system.” From those stated objectives, Eurojihad effectively covers a variety of subtopics in concise and well notated academic format.
The first chapter, the Introduction provides a strong precis of what is to be discussed. Following that is a basic technical demographic analysis of Europe’s Muslim Population. From there it begins to provide an analysis of the who, why, how manner of information: a discussion of Salafism and radical Islamic development and belief systems within Europe; the formation of the networks; the patterns of radicalization for recruitments; and the evolvement of these systems.
The work ends with a discussion of the European reaction to these elements, mainly from the British and German perspectives. The closing section on Key Judgments provides a brief summary and an extension of possible thought to how the U.S. could apply this information to confronting their own terrorist threats.
As proposed on the back cover notes, this text could serve as “an immediately essential text” and a “text of reference on jihadism in Europe.” For anyone unfamiliar with the demographics and recruitment methodologies of European terrorism this text does provide a concise, clearly written overview of the topic.
The authors have for the most part stayed well within the parameters of their chosen thesis and have not ventured in the broader context of the global terrorist enterprise. However, the few times a comment is ventured that touches on, or more daringly steps into, the realm of the broader context, it does leave room for questioning.
My first question rose in the definition of radicalization as presented above. Could it be that those who are radicalized - and as explained by the authors they tend to be reasonably well educated - also recognize the double standards, hypocrisy, and contradictions within that system?
Ideology is recognized by the authors as being “the center of gravity of jihadists and radical Islamist movements,” followed by a clear basic explanation of Islamist ideological points. However, that is followed by a discussion of that touches on the “theaters of global jihad.” The ideas expressed: recognizing the Sykes-Picot secret deal of 1916; the “foreign support for...apostate regimes;” and the “insurgency” in Iraq and “invading Afghanistan and Iraq;” presents the realm of action sounding more like defensive insurgency military actions against foreign forces rather than a purely religious enterprise. The latter idea is the manner in which it is presented in western media and generally in western academia, but the authors here step around discussing the issue any further and re-focus on Europe.
Another touch on the outside rises in the section in the Origins of Radical Islamist Networks in Europe where a brief mention of recruits being sent off for training in Afghanistan “well before” 1996 where “training was provided by international elements.” Left at that it is fine for the given discourse, but if one were to venture into the “international elements” a different spin would have to enter the discussion. The generally recognized Radicalization Patterns involved mainly young men who were not “marginalized individuals” but were educated, “driven by social and personal grievances and issues of identity.” That is not entirely new information, but it does present the idea that being educated, more aware of societies “values”, its contradictions, double standards, and inequalities could lead toward the route of radicalization.
In the same discussion of UK terrorism it is mentioned that a terror cell was “infiltrated with the assistance of a foreign security service,” raising the obvious question, which one? The CIA? The NSA? Mossad? It also raises the spectre of the ineptitude of some of the terror attempts such as the “shoe bomber” and the “underwear bomber” - or it demonstrates how those with already radical ideas are prompted on their journeys by said infiltrators, an easy way to score a victory against terrorism, an avenue of thought well supported in non-mainstream media.
The book does not truly discuss The Global Dimensions of Europe-Based Islamist Terrorism, but tries to limit itself to the links between various regions. The authors lean dangerously close to trouble with their brief discussion of ISIS and Syria, recognizing that - at least from the terrorists perspective - “Syria was more complex than they expected and that it was not simply a fight against Assad,” but “there were many players in the conflict and they were ordered to fight against other Muslims.” The authors recognize, "For European governments - the French and the British in particular - that support the opposition to the Assad regime, it is difficult to reconcile their political goals in Syria with preventing a jihadist blowback."
In order to fully examine that comment within “global dimensions” would take the reader all the way back to the Sykes-Picot agreement, the Ottoman Empire and then on through all the wars and imperial efforts up to and including the present arena of international concerns: oil, US$ hegemony, Israel/Palestine, U.S. efforts at destabilizing governments in the region (Libya, Iraq, Egypt) while supporting others that are clearly monarchic, authoritarian, and non-democratic, and containment of Russia and China being the main “dimensions” not discussed.
Instead they move on to Pakistan, Central Asia, Yemen and East Africa where many of the same dimensions are also not discussed but are effectively constrained behind the discussion of the actual links.
What to do
In the New European Approach, the authors discuss what Britain and Germany have done in order to counter the terrorist threat. In broad terms, Britain appears to be trying intervention as the preferred method rather than criminalizing the precipitate behaviours; Germany is much more direct in countering such behaviours. For both what it allows is more surveillance, data sharing, privacy intrusions, detention without charges, and perhaps more concerning than these already active features, the “special and harsher legal procedures” within separate courts.
That may all be well and good for countering a state enemy, but it also leads into the area of a police controlled society with extra judicial authority. While uncertain of that status in Europe, in Canada and the U.S. it has led to expressions of terrorism including environmentalists, anti-corporate protesters (usually one and the same thing but not necessarily in our financially bewildered world), anti racists and others who are protesting against government iniquities.
The conclusion for the authors is that terrorism is “stable and probably more difficult to eradicate than the violence rooted in Middle East politics that affected Europe in the 1990s” implying that after 9/11 terrorist actions broadened well beyond the direct concerns of the Israel-Palestine situation.
As for the lessons for the U.S. “The European experience may be instructive in confronting this danger.” Okay, like what…? Like the U.S. “could explore the European model of a special counter-terrorist legal regime as an alternative to federal courts, military commissions, or indefinite detentions of suspected foreign terrorists.”
Whoa….what?? Are you indicating the the PATRIOT Act and the NDAA (2013) are not enough? Or the Posse Comitatus act truly limits the use of military force within the U.S.? That an extrajudicial legal regime alternative is required? Are not more surveillance, data sharing, privacy intrusions, military commissions, detention without charges as already used by the U.S. sufficient?
The ultimate final conclusion is that “there may be experiences in the European’s adaptation of their legal frameworks to deal with terrorist threats that may be of value to the United States as Americans adapt their legal system to the realities of global terrorism.” Ahh yes, the realities of global terrorism, good thing they are beyond the scope of this book.
And really, as indicated above, the book is generally well written and the authors do keep to the stated thesis for their work. So take it for what it is - concise well written text of the European experience with terrorism, without expectations of a broader discussion.