After the Brussels attacks: The obvious and the implied lessons

Friday 01/04/2016

Once again terror strikes violently in the heart of Europe and once again Arabs and Muslims are holding their breath in anticipation of the aftermath of the attacks. Europeans, on the other hand, are worried about the security and democracy in their countries.

So, will the Brussels attacks constitute a turning point in Europe’s security policies, particularly following British Prime Minister David Cameron’s report and the US Congress draft legislation concerning the Muslim Brotherhood?

Following the Paris attacks in November 2015 and the recent attacks in Brussels, we can safely say that a new security-focused era is in full swing in Europe. However, none of the European leaders are addressing the causes behind the spread of terrorism in Europe. In particular, fallout of the war in Syria or the failure to integrate the Arab and Maghrebi communities in Europe into the local economic, social and cultural fabric.

Failing to take these factors into consideration renders recently adopted measures inefficient in isolating the terror phenomenon.

Only a comprehensive security approach, which touches on economic, social, political, cultural and religious aspects, is liable to succeed in uprooting terror risks in Europe. Europeans are aware that the likes of Salah Abdeslam and the Bakraoui brothers — respectively, suspects in the Paris and Brussels attacks — are the products of marginalisation policies and practices.

Saying this by no means justifies terrorism. It only serves to make the point that finding solutions to violence and terrorism must target their root causes. Tightening security at European airports is a good thing but focusing on solutions to poverty and marginalisation in Europe is even better.

Europe’s security doctrine should find room for three elements:

First, the creation of a European National Security Agency, which among other things, would collaborate closely with Arab and Muslim countries in all intelligence matters.

Second, the adoption of legislation among Europe and Arab and Muslim countries that would facilitate the transfer of captured terrorists, joint interrogations and investigations and court procedures.

Third, resorting to surgical pre-emptive strikes so that dealing with terrorists would become based on a proactive approach and not a reactive one. To achieve such a goal would require amendments to certain European laws.

There are 45 million Muslims in Europe. This represents 6% of the total population. For decades, European countries did not control the activities of the many Muslim groups in place. Some of these groups adhered to takfiri ideologies while others were influenced by the doctrines of the Muslim Brotherhood, which called for the Islamisation of the entire planet, including Europe, and by all means possible.

Only a handful of these Islamic groups in Europe spread the doctrines of moderate Islam. When civil wars broke out in countries of the “Arab spring”, Europeans thought that they were getting rid of the Islamic extremists among them when the latter left Europe to fight in those wars and in Syria in particular. Alas, they returned to Europe full of hatred and well-trained in terrorist tactics.

Recent terror attacks have shaken Europe’s security foundations. Some in Europe have begun to contemplate adopting a common religious policy. Many experts would like such a policy to encourage the emergence of a so-called European Islam, a version of Islam that is in concert with human rights and European constitutions by refusing to mix politics and religion and by accepting to remain open to other cultures.

If this new strategy sees the light, scores of religious and charitable societies in Europe adopting political Islam doctrines or Salafist ideologies run the risk of being dissolved or recast into new forms.

It has become necessary for Arab elites living in Europe to think about creating pressure groups to work with European governments and the European Parliament to promote inter-faith and intercultural education. The same lobbies can be active in defending the economic and social rights of the Maghrebi and Arab communities in Europe and in explaining to these communities the advantages of integrating European societies, culture and economy.

It is crucial that full integration policies in Europe succeed because their success would go a long way towards eliminating the hotspots of resentment, violence and terrorism.