The changing (and scary) face of Europe’s jihad

Yesterday this blog discussed how the Swiss military is not-so-quietly preparing for serious disturbances in the EU states that surround that small Alpine country.

How could major disorder – riots leading to more riots leading to something truly awful – erupt in Europe? Greece seems halfway there already, although most outside commentators have pointed to that country’s disastrous finances as the underlying cause of the disturbances, while many Greeks will tell you that out of control illegal immigration (80% of illegal entrants into the EU come via Greece) is at least as big a factor behind the tumult. Suddenly even very level-headed commentators are noting that Golden Dawn, and several other once-fringe-but-now-rising parties across the continent are edging towards something that looks rather like fascism. Europe has seen this movie before; it ends badly.

I hang out frequently with European security officials, and when the press isn’t around they discuss in detail their paramount fears of local incidents spiraling out of control, leaving whole cities in disorder. And by “disorder” they mean “low-level war.” When the next self-styled “defender of Europe” a la Breivik decides to take the counterjihad upon himself and shoots up a mosque or an Islamic center – note I said when not if – something enormously unpleasant will follow.

Europe already has unpleasantries abounding. France is the latest scene of a worrisome development in the struggle against violent extremists. That country, and its Jewish population especially, has been on edge since March when Mohamed Merah, a Franco-Algerian ne’er-do-well, waged his personal jihad in the south of France, murdering three off-duty soldiers, then shooting up a Jewish school in Toulouse and killing four, three of them small children. After a 30-hour siege with police, Merah killed himself. Despite initial claims of surprise, as I’ve reported previously, French domestic intelligence had been aware of Merah’s dangerous views for a couple years, and was worried about what he might do, but no one did anything to prevent disaster.

In an effort to do better the next time, this past weekend French police rolled up a dozen jihadists in a series of raids around the country. Eleven were brought into custody, while 33 year-old Jeremy Louis-Sydney went out in hail of bullets when police entered his residence in Strasbourg. His fingerprints were tied to a hand grenade thrown at a kosher shop in Paris in mid-September, and French authorities announced that, with these arrests, they had preempted a series of attacks on Jewish interests and persons across France. Louis-Sydney had declared his willingness to die as a shahid (martyr) for Islam, and had prepared himself for death, shaving his beard and authoring a last will.

What is especially worrisome about these arrests is that all twelve mujahidin are converts, native-born Frenchmen who opted for a highly radical, Salafi version of Islam, and decided to wage war on their own society. As a detailed report in Le Figaro explains, they are career criminals who had been in and out of jail most of their lives; for them, a radical version of Islam apparently offered a way out of their disappointing and probably pointless lives. These are hardly the first young Europeans to go to war against their own society, indeed France got into this market early. Back in the 1990s, Lionel Dumont, a young Frenchman, became a jihad celebrity by fighting in Bosnia with Al-Qa’ida, waging a brief yet intense holy war at home , then going on the lam, bouncing around the world until he was arrested in 2004 in Japan, where he was planning to attack a U.S. Navy base.

Yet the arrests this weekend indicate a more serious problem. Dumont began his radicalization abroad and joined Al-Qa’ida to wage jihad wherever it might be; he had deep ties with the Balkan jihad scene. Here we are witnessing a dangerous new generation of Islamist terrorists in Europe: young and alienated men of the criminal class, radicalized at home (often through the Internet more than at any mosque), intending to wage a very violent and self-styled jihad at home, against their fellow citizens.

We don’t know much yet, but having examined quite a few “homegrown jihad” cases, I doubt there will be any links between France’s Dirty Dozen and Al-Qa’ida Central. Such terrorists need little outside help to wage war at home. The fusion of the street skills of career criminals with the fanaticism of radical Islam is an ominous portent. French police and intelligence are taking this new threat seriously, as they should. Manuel Valls, the French interior minister, who cancelled a trip to the Middle East to deal with this weekend’s developments, explained: “There is not, on one hand, crime and, on the other, terrorism, the two can join. Terrorism today is mixed up with the problems of our neighborhoods.  The profiles of the terrorists resemble those of drug traffickers.”

Americans should not be complacent, as the new generation of criminals-turned-jihadists is hardly confined to Europe. Conversion to Islam is a major concern in America’s prisons, not least because criminals are not being converted to the tame, “jihad is love” version of the faith. Not unrelatedly, the majority of U.S. converts to Islam are African-Americans. That said, the United States has not yet witnessed the sort of thing that Europe is now confronting: a significant, homegrown terrorism threat consisting of citizens who have decided to wage war against their neighbors, even at the cost of their own lives.

France and other European countries with substantial Muslim populations are facing a grave problem as criminal-converts who are already violent adopt a hardline version of Islam which validates their antisocial fantasies and hatred of the people around them, who are now marked for death. Nearly four decades ago, Jean Raspail was run out of polite society in France when he published his (in)famous novel The Camp of the Saints, which forecast a dystopian future for a Europe overwhelmed by foreigners. Yet, today it’s difficult not to see Raspail’s dim vision as more than a little prophetic, as Rod Dreher has noted (although he’s best known for his crunchy-con thing, Rod has also been one of the few mainstream American journalists willing to forthrightly discuss the political implications of Muslim immigration into the West).

Similarly, the British establishment made Enoch Powell a pariah after his 1968 “Rivers of Blood” speech, which likewise made dire predictions about how importing large numbers of Asians and Africans into Britain might end, yet many will now concede that perhaps he had a point after all. Nevertheless, I don’t think even Enoch Powell could have foreseen that, by importing Muslim populations into Europe, governments would enable the rise of domestic extremism of a truly scary kind.

There is good news in this weekend’s developments. This time, French domestic intelligence was watching several of the jihadists, and the police acted before anything really awful happened. But the cops and the spooks will have to get it right every time to prevent disaster, and as a veteran of the secret war I can assure you that nobody is quite that good.


8 comments on “The changing (and scary) face of Europe’s jihad”
  1. George Meyer says:

    So, how do you fight this problem? Keep files on everybody with views that the government doesn’t like? (Especially if they’re white?)

    Sounds like “the cops and spooks” don’t have anything on Golden Dawn…

    1. 20committee says:

      In a free society with civil liberties, fighting the homegrown jihad is challenging. Although in this case French intel and police rose to the challenge in time (as the FBI has been doing well at in the USA the last few years). Next time, who knows?

  2. George Meyer says:

    I asked a pretty tough question I know, but what I think that you’re telling me is that:

    1) There is no way to deal with this that is consistent with Western liberal ideas.
    2) No expert is going to risk drawing a line in the sand. Encroachments on liberties will just happen, despite token hand-wringing, and at the end of the day all the right people keep their jobs while the rest of just get to live in… Switzerland?

    1. 20committee says:

      Not a tough question, an impossible one … given the time and space here.

      Each society will try its own way to fight this, based on local norms and laws; some will do better than others.

      Eventually, luck will run out, and something awful will happen which local authorities cannot control. That, I am quite sure of, and state with confidence.

      The question all Western societies, grounded wholly in post-Enlightenment concepts of “tolerance”, now face is the same: How tolerant must (can?) we be of the intolerant? I’m waiting for an answer.

      1. The answer is, you can’t be. Liberal democracy is a modern, time-limited experiment, and that time is running out. Inevitably, the liberal democracy must jettison its egalitarian charter or face being overrun by illiberal peoples. When biological and economic reality finally hits, you will see the Greeks, Italians, maybe even the French marching Muslims to the harbor and telling them to get on the boat or start swimming.

        Britain, unfortunately, is finished. Islam will prove too powerful an attraction for a generation of people surveying the wreckage of their society’s militant secularism and mindless consumption.

        The Swedes will probably clean out their rabble. Equatorial peoples are not very healthy at that latitude.

        The idea that disparate, even antithetical, nations can be forged into a single coherent polity has always been an imperial pipe dream. It doesn’t work, and it’s never worked.

        The only way to avoid bloodshed at this point is abolish all the civil rights laws, the transfer payments, the social engineering, and allow people to re-draw their historic borders around themselves as they have always done. Once the safe harbors currently prohibited by such policies are restored, then people can constructively interact or not interact as they see fit.

  3. John Williams says:

    This is a truly sobering and depressing state of affairs. I think the key question is: should we really even try to be tolerant of intolerance? I mean when a belief system literally goes against and defies all standards of human decency, what can we, what should we do?

    1. 20committee says:

      Great question. And without seeming to dodge it, I’ll say that, since we’re talking about democracies here, each society needs to determine, through its elected representatives, how much intolerance they are willing to, well, tolerate. I suspect the answer may change in the face of rising violence and instability.

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