Combat Islamist extremism in Europe?

The “European front” looks hopeless to me.

Senior Bush administration officials, following terrorist attacks in Madrid and London and galvanized by Muslim mass protests over Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, have concluded that Europe’s alienated Muslim minorities not only endanger Europe’s social cohesion but pose an increasing American security threat. Short term, these officials worry that a potential terrorist bearing a European passport may travel visa-free to the U.S. and slip through post-2001 controls. Longer term, they fear that growing, radicalized communities within allied European states could form ever-larger support groups, recruiting grounds and launching pads for extremism.

The administration’s evolving thinking came into sharper focus last week during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing at which Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Daniel Fried said: “While Islamist extremism is a global phenomenon, we find the nature of the problem in Western Europe to be distinct — both in its character and its potential to threaten the United States.”

What makes the challenge so complex, Mr. Fried said in a subsequent interview, is that the U.S. can’t address it through arrests, military campaigns or even greater democracy, but needs to launch a generational “battle of ideas” that would be no less critical in importance than that against communism after World War II. It ultimately will have to rely on European allies who mostly have failed to integrate Muslim minorities.

As expected, an excellent analysis by Wretchard:

In fact, there nothing remotely approaching a consensus in Western politics on the need to fight totalitarian Islamism physically or intellectually.

Even in America Iraq has become the “unnecessary war”; Guantanamo Bay the unnecessary prison. Wiretapping Al-Qaeda, worrying about the Iranian nuclear weapons program, even building a border fence are all unnecessary acts. And they are superfluous precisely because the notion of opposing radical Islamism is itself an unnecessary idea, inexpressible even as a cartoon. The problem with opening a Third Front in Europe is that the cart may have come before the horse. The truth may set you free, but first you must have truth.

Preceded by this analysis of Crisis in Europe by Bruce Bawer:

I’m not entirely certain what consequences the large Muslim population in Europe will have. But it seems fairly safe to assert that it should be the subject of rational debate. It can’t be some kind of verboten subject banished from political and academic conversation. Yet slowly but surely it has crept into the public view, discussed mostly in coded messages in the way that political campaigns in China were once described by reference to something completely different. “Let a thousand flowers bloom” was never about horticulture.

What convinces me above all that Bawer is onto something is precisely this recourse to orbicular reference and coded speech. The hallmark of a real horror story is that you never want to look into the dark. Even if there’s nothing there.

Crisis in Europe:

My learning curve was steep. When I look back, it’s as if one day the whole business wasn’t even on my radar screen, and the next day I understood that it was the most important issue of our time.

It happened in Amsterdam, a city I flipped for in 1997 and moved to a year later.1 But it wasn’t till 1999, when I lived briefly in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood, that I took in the fact that the city was divided into two radically different and almost entirely separate communities. One of them, composed mostly of ethnic Dutchmen, was secular, liberal, and (owing to a very low birthrate) dwindling steadily; the other, composed of immigrant Muslims, lived in tradition-bound, self-segregating enclaves whose autocratic leaders despised democracy and whose population (thanks to high birth and immigration rates) was climbing rapidly. This division, I soon realized, was replicated across Western Europe. Clearly, major social friction—and more—lay down the line.

Yet nobody talked about it. Or wanted to…


What is the role of Islam itself in shaping the difficulties associated with Europe’s immigrant communities? On this question there is broad disagreement. Wikan, an expert on the Islamic world, absolves Islam of all blame, maintaining that the trouble lies with certain cultures in which the dominant religion happens to be Islam and not with the religion itself. Al-Kubaisi, raised a Muslim, takes the opposite view, insisting that the negative aspects of Muslim communities can’t be disconnected from Islam itself, since it’s by far the most powerful of the forces that shape those communities.