Uphill battle to counter radicalisation of Muslims in Europe

Sunday 09/07/2017

Things may not be spinning out of control in the United Kingdom but a spate of terrorist attacks in recent months has shown that radicalisation is a growing problem. While the government has tried to counter the problem, more measures should be taken to address its root causes.

First, the government should extend its monitoring of hate preaching at Muslim institutions and monitor attempts by extrem­ists to approach people in the workplace, where Muslims are also vulnerable to radicalisation.

Second, the UK government should address the lack of economic integration of the Muslim community. As other European countries have real­ised, economic disenfranchise­ment is a key factor in radicalisa­tion.

A 2015 Muslim Council of Britain report indicated that Muslims are behind Sikhs and Hindus in terms of educational attainment. Only 24% of Muslims have a university degree, com­pared to 45% of Hindus and 30% of Sikhs. Muslim students are less likely to attend universities in the Russell Group, an association of Britain’s top public research schools.

This gap extends into the workforce. Nuffield College’s Centre for Social Investigation said British Pakistanis and Bangladeshis earn two-thirds less than white people.

A British House of Commons committee warned that Muslims were far more likely to be unem­ployed than people from other faiths in the country. Nearly 13% of Muslims are unemployed, compared to 5.4% of the overall population.

This problem disproportion­ately affects Muslim women, as many European employers worry they will put family duties before their profession. A 2016 report released by the House of Com­mons Women and Equalities Committee showed that 65% of Muslims who are not employed are women. Almost half — 44% — of these women said they cannot work because they look after their home, compared to 16% of women who are not employed in the general British population.

A similar hurdle to Muslims’ economic integration in ultra-secular France is resentment over what is perceived to be conspicu­ous religious behaviour at work. A 2016 poll by the Randstad Insti­tute and the Observatory for Religion in Companies (OFRE) indicated that 65% of French employers asked said they noticed an “alarming” rise in religious “demands” at work. In 2015, 50% of employers reported this trend, compared to 44% in 2014. Mus­lims were said to have made the most such demands.

The poll noted that tension and conflict most often occur when “religious employees (refuse) to work alongside a female colleague or (ask) to work with people who share their faith and no one else.”

OFRE Director Lionel Honoré said Muslim employees have threatened to accuse their bosses of Islamophobia if their demands — such as being given the time and place for prayer — are not met.

However, the poll results indicated that 80% of French respondents said they were aware of their colleagues’ religion and that 82% “didn’t mind” them.

Still, Muslims need to reassess their demands of employers. The Quran does not state that Muslim men cannot work with women or non-Muslims. These unreason­able demands are making every­day life in the workplace more difficult for everyone.

In Britain, the likelihood of radicalisation goes up the longer migrants or their family have resided in the country. A Univer­sity of London study stated that young Muslims whose families have lived in the United Kingdom for generations are more suscepti­ble to radicalisation than recent migrants to Britain.

Professor of cultural psychiatry and epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London Kamaldeep Bhui, who was the lead author of the study, said: “Migrant groups are much stronger in condemning terrorism. I think the most compelling argument for this is that recent migrants are dealing with a hard struggle and they have invested in coming here.

“They have got adversity to deal with and are not in a position where they can indulge some of the ideas of grievance. Whereas people born and brought up here probably take for granted the security and safety where they live and the education and support.”

However, even the most detailed analysis cannot capture every case of radicalisation. Khalid Masood, the perpetrator of the 2017 Westminster attack was 52 years old, for example, and Darren Osborne, charged with carrying out the Finsbury Park van attack, is 47. Salman Ramadan Abedi, who set off a bomb outside of Manchester Arena on May 22, killing 22 people and injuring more than 250, was born to migrant parents. These exceptions to the rule, however, do not mean we should disregard the general trends analysts have pointed out.

Government officials and the public must work to counter the scourge of extremism. Authorities should be cognisant of the specific needs and vulnerabilities in the Muslim community and Muslims should make every attempt to pursue higher education and advance in the workforce.

This may not counter radicalisa­tion completely but it will reduce the threat and better integrate the community into society.