Terror against the EU
This was not only an attack on Belgium. It was an attack on the European capital and the European Union as a whole. Between the metro stations Kunst-Wet, Maalbeek and Schuman bombs detonated in an area very close to the Berlaymont-Buliding and also three employees of the European Commission were among the victims. The targets were not chosen randomly. The message of the terrorists is: ’We wage war against Europe!’. This was an attack on all of us, whether we live in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, London, Rome, Madrid, Warsaw, Glasgow, Frankfurt or Strasbourg.
Still national elites don’t seem to recognise this fact. Instead of debating about common European structures like a European federal police or a European secret service, politicians talk about better intelligence data exchange. Data exchange between national agencies is the least that is necessary to take action against international terrorists. To hear that this intelligence sharing was not established properly, even after the attacks on Paris, is verging on political negligence, which all European national ministers of the interior and heads of governments should take responsibility for!
Are the populists right?
After the attacks on Paris, some tried to connect the refugee crisis with the terrorist threat. If one combines both topics with a general question about the ability to integrate Muslim minorities into a free European society, you get a virtual soup of topics, that national populists can serve to potential voters. This applies for politicians of all persuasions, from social democrats like Miloš Zeman, Robert Fico and Thilo Sarrazin to national conservatives like Viktor Orban and Beata Szydło as well as extreme right populists like Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen. For example, after the attacks on the football stadium in Paris a passport of a Syrian refugee was found. Marine Le Pen took this as an opportunity to reinforce her demands for the abolition of the Schengen free-travel agreement.
Terror export champion Europe
Looking at the identified terrorists, the biggest part of them were EU-citizens. They grew up in the parallel societies of Molenbeek and the Paris banlieues. Also, as President Juncker of the Commission points out: ’The terrorists went through our education systems’. They came from here. No border, no passport control could have stopped them, or could have prevented the attacks. And more so, if one watches the propaganda videos of Daesh, it will seem like nearly half of the fighters don’t originate from Syria or Iraq, but from Europe. In European Newspapers we saw headlines with names like ’Jihadi John’ or German gangster rapper ’Deso Dogg’, alias Denis Cuspert. Indeed, since 2014 Europe ’exported’ many more jihadists than it ’imported’. Many will say, that many of those Europeans have an Arab migration background. But what about radical converts with no migration background at all? Is a Muslim, who takes their religion seriously by definition a potential terrorist?
A poisoned debate full of traps
We will all be skating on very thin ice, if we follow such logic. There are sources of friction between western civilisation and conservative versions of Islam. This is a fact we should not deny. Moreover, some interpretations of Islam, like Wahhabism, which is promoted internationally by Saudi Arabia, are incompatible with European culture and an enlightened understanding of rule of law. Some practices and traditions may not be tolerated on our soil. Still, the tool to define the limits of what we can and must tolerate, mustn’t be a wooden hammer, but a carefully handled scalpel! Wilders and Le Pen favour the hammer. When every Muslim is put under general suspicion, it is only collateral damage for them, if at all. But maybe this clash of cultures, propagated by self-declared patriots, plays into the hands of the jihadists after all.
The seeds of division
In western media the ’Islamic State’ is widely named as such. Using this terminology is dangerous, since it strengthens the self-image of this gang of murderers and therefore follows their propaganda. These people are no good Muslims, and their organisation is no state. and especially no ’Islamic State’. In the Arabic-speaking world the group is simply called ’Daesh’, which means something like ’the tramplers’. Also the word has Arabic connotations of ’sowing division’. According to Franco-German political scientist Asiem El Difraoui the sowing of division is exactly the goal of Daesh propaganda. Daesh wants to create a growing anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, that divides our society, so that it is easier for them to recruit people, who feel rejected by our society. Also the sowing of division between nations is a goal of Daesh, since the group benefits from the disunion of political and security structures in Europe.
The fifth column of Daesh
Regarding this aspect, the self-portrayal of extreme right-wing nationalist agitators as ’righteous patriots’ can in no way be accepted. Except for fuelling a conflict between cultures, these people help the terrorists, because they question the rules of civilised behaviour and contact between people. They therefore actively promote an erosion of free European civilisation and culture, that the jihadists want to destroy. Freedom of religion belongs to the achievements of European civilisation, like the respect for human rights, rule of law, democracy, intercultural cooperation and gender equality. A person participating in the dismantling of their own civilisation – for whom justifications like political strategy or simple ignorance don’t matter - may never in any way call themselves a patriot!