Terror in Europe

Islam And Integration, How The Seeds For Terror Take Root

Can we accept cultural "sensitivities" as an excuse for undemocratic behavior? Can we accept a Muslim father not shaking the hand of his child's teacher because she is a woman? Yes, it's all connected to recent terror attacks in

Exit sign near Aachen's mosque, Germany
Ahmad Mansour*

-Essay-

MUNICH â€" It was only a few days ago that I was in Bonn, where I had been invited to take part in a discussion with the Great Mufti of Egypt. The topics of said discussion were tolerance and freedom and it was an intercultural exchange that responded to our most basic democratic aspirations.

The Great Mufti spoke of the great measure of tolerance that Islam promotes and how people live together in peace. He lauded the acceptance of others and the amity of the pious.

At the end of the discussion panel I wanted to get my picture taken with the Great Mufti but he, as well as his advisers, refused my request. Their reasoning was that he did not want to be in the same picture as me because I am a citizen of Israel, an Arab Israeli.

This is one of those situations that leaves me speechless and incredibly sad in light of the double standards my fellow brothers in faith apply. We both speak Arabic, we both are members of the same religion, we were both willing to debate, to utter words of good and reconciliation while at the podium, words that the audience wanted to hear. And then this.

The great scholar dropped his mask after the official part of the day's proceedings were over and showed his true face, which, by the by, gave lie to everything he said while speaking to the audience.

Others said that it was only a small thing to refuse. It is like refusing to shake someone's hand when meeting them.

It is just like saying that it's only a headscarf that women are forced to wear, that it is only an expression of particular piety. That only particularly pious parents won't let their daughter go on a class trip or have her join swimming classes out of fear. These are all just benign, cultural differences.

But these differences or rather symptoms are, unfortunately, becoming more and more frequent â€" and they are not harmless. The "normal" or "traditional" side and understanding of Islam which we in Europe have encountered a thousand times over does have ties to the extreme version that fundamentalists, extremists such as Salafists, Wahhabis or the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), claim as their own.

The daily, traditional form of Islam has many little seeds that, given certain conditions, could grow into plants of extreme interpretations.

The general German public has been shocked by the adolescent, who took an axe to the passengers on a train in Würzburg, as well as by the man who blew himself up at a music festival in Ansbach. Many are afraid that religious extremists entered the country alongside thousands of refugees. They are afraid that the "foreign terror" came to us from outside the state. Only time will show if this is really true.

Local roots

But what most certainly is true is the fact that nearly all Islamic terrorists who have traveled to Syria or have committed attacks in Europe are, in fact, young Europeans. They were born and raised here.

They are adolescents who went to school here, who speak our language and are a part of our society. When we speak of Islamism, we also have to speak of German, of European conditions.

One thing is completely out of the question for me, however. Namely that the "nice, unobtrusive guy next door" was turbo-radicalized, more or less became a terrorist overnight, such as some people in security circles presume to have happened.

No one decides from one day to the next that he will kill "infidels." It is the final stage of an insidious process, a warped growth of that aforementioned seed and plant under those certain circumstances.

If someone finds themselves in crisis â€" may it be due to school, a girlfriend, parents, prison, debt, drugs or falling in with the wrong crowd â€" a Salafist can become the figure that will provide structure and meaning to their lives. He will give them rules to live by. Halal and haram, clean and unclean.

The world is suddenly divided into the pious and infidels. You will have to obey food laws, speak a certain way, pray a certain way, work and act a certain way. Only that certain way of life is pleasing to Allah and your brothers will love you for living it. Those who do not live by these rules are evil, they are the devil, the enemy. But we, we are the elite. We are the good ones.

Such ideologically charged hatred is not acquired overnight. Radicalization is often an invisible process. The face they show the world is that of a polite albeit rather pious, young adolescent.

Their path to radicalization is often littered with things they have encountered in their daily lives, such as a Mufti or Imam, who is angry with Israel and "the Jews," angry with the West and America. He does not like to shake a woman's hand. They are fathers who punish their daughters for being "unchaste" and sons for being "disobedient," essentially for having dared to use their own minds and act accordingly.

Throughout their social education, they were taught a world view, that their parents instilled in them and that religious teachings taught them were right. This may have been done overtly or much more subtly. But, often enough, pragmatic compromises between an ideal and reality have to be found for everyday life. Not every rule has to be followed and obeyed, you are allowed to have fun.

But these rules can morph into a narrow-minded, closed off world view when they are set in stone. Only good and evil, halal and haram, black and white. Seeing as it is a dichotomous world view to begin with, it is not surprising that to turn Islam into Islamism can be achieved without too much difficulty.

Victimhood, literal faith, a cultivation of fear, sexual oppression and an aversion to life in general. These are all aspects that will lead you to, on the one hand, accept authorities blindly and, on the other hand, will make you fear, even loathe, your responsibility, your individuality. It is these aspects and their attributes that make young people so prone to becoming radicalized.

The Koran is viewed as dictated "by Allah" rather than a historically evolved document. Not a word may be questioned, doubted or should be linked to current events. In order for all of this to not materialize, the clergy instill fear in the youth's hearts, fear of hell and its tortures. Self-determined sexuality especially is abhorrent.

Loving your own body, loving to fall in love and loving love itself are taboo. The dogma reigns which says that your very own and intimate vivacity does not belong to you but to the family, the clan, the group at large, that it belongs to religion.

School officials have told me of parents enraged by a teacher suggesting that exhausted students should have a sip of water during the burning summer heat of Ramadan. The parents even went as far as complaining to the education authorities because that particular teacher, at least to their minds, did not respect their religion. The education authority did actually ask the teacher in this case to show more respect.

But this is just one of the many examples of the perceived victimhood of Muslims, an "us-against-them" way of thinking. The train of thought being "we are being oppressed; you, the West, Europe, the Jews, Israel and the media are our enemies because you reject us and Islam in general. We have to defend ourselves."

Praying in the Great Mosque of Paris â€" Photo: Bertrand Hauger

This authority-dependent stance is supported by patriarchal social structures. How can we expect love for democracy, equality and critical thinking, rule of law and state secularism to flourish under these circumstances?

A division of church and state are not part of this world view. And the democratic state is worth nothing at all to those who have been radicalized. Thus, you will find thousands of people who live among us who do not care for basic democratic rights.

Radical ideologies grow where democracy is being actively rejected. And we should not just mention ISIS, our current enemy-of-choice, but also the Palestinian group Hamas and the ruling AKP party in Turkey.

Integration is more than just learning a language, education and being a part of the job market. Those factors alone would have meant Mohamed Atta â€" the Egyptian-born resident of Germany who was ringleader for the Sep. 11 attacks â€" was perfectly integrated. He and his cohorts were hard-working engineering students after all.

Integration also means to have arrived socially as well as mentally, to not feel alienated within society but to feel like a part of it, to be a part of "us." This will possibly require you to become independent of the world views and perceptions of one or more parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt â€" to claim freedom into your own hands and be brave enough to find out what it is that you want in life.

Why do we hear third-generation Germans of Turkish descent calling Erdogan "our president"? Integration courses should not be about knowing the name of Germany's highest mountain, placing more emphasis on dialogue and discussion, with the goal to foster curiosity. This holds especially true for all those refugees who only got here recently.

Dinner table

Try to imagine a Syrian family of two parents and two small children, who has been living in Germany for a year. How will they communicate at the dinner table in 10 years' time, when the children have become teenagers? What should we hope for in this case? These parents are currently afraid of Western freedom but we have to be able to reach out to them while they are still shaping their children's world.

Society will have to once and for all decide upon what is acceptable and what is not. Are we going to tolerate elementary school children wearing a headscarf? Will parents be allowed to keep their children from participating in school activities because they think these activities are haram?

Should we tolerate the rampant anti-Semitism of children of Arabic and Turkish descent because they feel sorry for the Palestinians?

Can our society really afford to accept cultural "sensitivities" as an excuse for gender-based Apartheid? Can we really afford to accept a Muslim father not shaking the hand of his child’s teacher because she is a woman?

To tolerate these things would most certainly send the wrong signals. Naive signals, helpless signals. And we cannot afford to do so. We need to be able to utilize every road imaginable to prevent further radicalization, looking hard at what is contained in integration courses, schools and on the Internet.

If the Muslim umbrella organizations and associations are to truly fight Islamism they will have to change their position in word and deed and, in a credible way, say goodbye to the stereotypes of victimhood, literal faith, cultivated fear, sexual oppression and an aversion to life in general.

But, unfortunately, nothing at the moment suggests that this change is about to happen. And the increasing radicalization of Turkey, which exerts a direct influence on many an association in Germany, does not give cause for hope.

But we, as a society, as individuals, will have to first and foremost be sure of our values and will have to demand that society adheres to them, regardless of any person's faith, descent or skin color. We will have to fight for these values to be upheld on a daily basis at work and at school, on the street and on the bus, and in our spare time at home.


*Ahmad Mansour holds a postgraduate degree in psychology and is program director of the European Foundation for Democracy.

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Geopolitics

As Hopes For Iran Nuclear Deal Fade, Uranium Enrichment Accelerates

Institute for Science and International Security concludes that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level, with new centrifuges leacing Tehran is barely a month away from obtaining weapons-grade material to move toward its first weapon.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, elected in August 2021

Ahmad Ra'fat


-Analysis-

The U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security, which includes independent nuclear power experts, concludes from information issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level — and thanks to new types of centrifuges, Tehran is barely a month away from obtaining weapons-grade material. The specialists caution that weapons-grade uranium is not the same as a nuclear bomb, for which delivery weapons and assemblage are needed. That would require another two years.

The Institute's experts believe Iran could produce material for a second bomb within a three-month time frame and that unless its activities are slowed, it may have enough enriched uranium for three bombs in the next five months.

Yet European states have shown unjustified optimism after a recent trip to Tehran by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, and his meeting with Mohammad Eslami, the new head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization. Grossi achieved very little in terms of reducing Iran's enrichment activities, merely ensuring the IAEA's renewed access to its cameras in installations there. Their recordings remain in Iranian hands.

Sabotage and cyberattacks haven't stopped progress

Instead, the visit helped Iran to halt at the last minute a threat by Britain, France and Germany to present the IAEA board of governors with a draft resolution to resend Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council for violating its non-proliferation obligations.

The IAEA had made further concessions. In past months, it kept quiet about reports of abusive conduct in Iran toward female IAEA inspectors, protesting only once the incidents were reported in The Wall Street Journal.

The Institute for Science and International Security also believes the acts of sabotage and cyberattacks of past months reportedly carried out by Israel and the United States, have failed to significantly interrupt Iran's program, merely slowing activities at certain locations. Tehran managed to rapidly repair the damage done, and resume its activities. The report concludes that Iran is as close today as it has ever been to accessing a bomb.

Iranian President and Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi visit an exhibition of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) achievements.— Photo: Salampix/Abaca/ZUMA

Keep an eye on Ali Baqeri-Kani

It is not currently clear when Iran and the West will resume talks on Tehran's program. With the rise of hardline officials in Iran — from President Ibrahim Raisi to his foreign minister, Hossein Amir'abdollahian and the country's new nuclear chief, Mohammad Eslami — it seems unlikely the West will get the same terms as the 2015 pact that included the United States.

Western states are particularly concerned by Iran's new negotiator, Ali Baqeri-Kani, who replaces Abbas Araqchi. Baqeri's father heads some of the regime's powerful financial and cultural foundations and his brother, Mesbahulhuda, is a son-in-law to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He has several times voiced his opposition to any type of compromise with the West.

From 2007 to 2013, he was in the negotiation team led by Sa'id Jalili, when talks with the West yielded nothing for Iran but more and tougher sanctions. Today, the prospects of reviving the 2015 pact have dimmed. Its moribund state may even have cheered Israel into recently softening its vociferous opposition to a pact with Tehran.

Observers suspect more concessions to Iran may be afoot, to prevent the pact's demise. Some believe the Islamic Republic may be changing its entire nuclear policy, and its refusal to return to Vienna has little to do with a new president but with a firm belief that it must return with its "hands full." Dangling its considerable advances toward a nuclear weapon, Iran could then stop its activities at the last minute, in return for major concessions, like the lifting of most sanctions and foregoing any talks about its ballistic program or regional interventions.

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