ISLAMIC TERRORISM IN EUROPE: AFTER VAN GOGH
Nov 11th 2004 | AMSTERDAM, BERLIN, BRUSSELS AND PARIS
From The Economist print edition
Por su interés y relevancia, he seleccionado el artículo que sigue para incluirlo en este sitio web. (L. B.-B.)
Europeans ponder how the tolerant
can best deal with the intolerant
“THE jihad has come to the Netherlands.” That was the verdict of Jozias van Aartsen, a leading Dutch Christian Democrat, after the violence following last week's murder in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh, a film-maker, by a Muslim radical. Attacks on mosques and Muslim schools were met by retaliatory attacks on churches. A raid on a terrorist cell in The Hague turned into a street battle featuring hand grenades and wounded policemen, before two suspects were arrested.
This sorry tale raises a big issue not just in the Netherlands, but across Europe: how far should liberal societies tolerate the intolerant? For 20 years the instinct of many has been to defend the rights and cultures of growing numbers of Muslim immigrants, even radicals. Any other approach, it was feared, would pander to racists. But both multiculturalism and tolerance are now under broad attack.
In the Netherlands, Pim Fortuyn, a gay maverick, popularised the argument that Muslim immigrants were promoting values inimical to Dutch traditions. When he was murdered in 2002, his political movement all but collapsed. But some of his arguments found a new advocate in Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female Somali immigrant and former Muslim who is now a liberal member of parliament. She urges the Dutch to insist forcefully on the superiority of western liberal values. Ms Hirsi Ali was threatened, along with Mr Van Gogh, after they made a film together that attacked Islamic fundamentalists' treatment of women.
Voters are also turning to a new champion, Geert Wilders, a renegade member of parliament thrown out by the liberals. Polls show that his party-in-the-making might win 7-17 seats if an election were held now, largely thanks to his attacks on Islam. The government urges restraint; but it is tightening immigration controls and cracking down on Islamic extremists.
In France, Nicolas Sarkozy, now finance minister but once interior minister, commented recently that “whether I like it or not, Islam is the second biggest religion in France. So you've got to integrate it by making it more French.” His government has a two-pronged approach to its 5m-strong Muslim population. It has tried to contain the radicalism of Islamists by co-opting them. And it has used a tough security regime to curb troublemakers.
To the first end, Mr Sarkozy last year set up the French Council of the Muslim Faith, an official voice for French Islam. When hardliners won elections to its regional branches and governing council, he said this was no disaster: it was best to bring such groups out of the shadows. Yet his strategy has had mixed results. A power-struggle rages in the council, threatening moderates. But one mark of the council's success was the reaction to the seizure in Iraq of two French journalists whose captors want the repeal of a ban on the headscarf in state schools. All shades of French Islam condemned the capture.
France has a strikingly harsh anti-terrorism policy. It has had no qualms in making the most of laws allowing the detention of terrorist suspects without trial for months on end. All four of its nationals repatriated from Guantánamo Bay were detained on a judge's instruction on their return to France. Dominique de Villepin, Mr Sarkozy's successor as interior minister, has been unyielding in his determination to expel imams guilty of hate crimes. When an expulsion order against Abdelkader Bouziane, an Algerian cleric based near Lyon, was overruled in the courts, Mr de Villepin changed the law—and Mr Bouziane was on the next plane out.
For Mr de Villepin, the trade-off between security and civil liberties is a fine one. But he insists “we must never find ourselves in a position of powerlessness.” The French monitor activity at mosques across the country, reckoning that of 1,500 Muslim prayer places, some 50 preach a radical form of Islam. This need not mean violence, but Mr de Villepin urges vigilance: “radical Islam can be used as a breeding ground for terrorism.” The French are also keen to co-operate with other European countries, fearful that their tough regime might otherwise move the problem to “softer” neighbours. With this in mind, Mr de Villepin has secured agreement with Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain to share intelligence on radical Islamists who attend training camps.
In Germany, home to 3.5m Muslims, over three times as many as the Netherlands, fears of violence and jihad are somewhat smaller. Admittedly, Islamic extremists could hit anywhere, but most Muslims in Germany are from Turkey (2.6m) or Bosnia (170,000), and espouse a more moderate form of Islam. Police have found few links between Islamic groups in Germany and the Netherlands. Yet Germany is not oblivious to the threat. As in France, the government is getting tougher on Islamic fundamentalists, even as it tries to foster integration. This double strategy underpins Germany's new immigration law: it facilitates the expulsion of Islamic radicals, but also makes language classes mandatory for immigrants.
In the same spirit, EU immigration ministers, meeting in the Netherlands, signed up on November 10th to common principles, both tender and tough, for integrating newcomers. They must be helped to take part in peaceful politics; faith must be respected, but not used to curb freedom.
In Germany, as elsewhere, there is now more emphasis on toughness. In October, after four years of legal manoeuvring, Germany ejected Metin Kaplan, the Turkish founder of an illegal Islamic group. There is less tolerance for radical Islamists using legal tricks to stay in Germany. The rule of law must “show its edge”, says Otto Schily, the interior minister.
After the Van Gogh murder, calls for Europe's open societies to be more aggressive towards Islamic radicals can only get louder. “Militant Islamism is only a tiny force in Europe”, wrote the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, “yet it is dangerous, because many societies on this continent have elevated their defencelessness into a virtue.” Yet the risk is that, rather than the intolerant learning tolerance, the tolerant become intolerant too.