Many European countries have large and growing Muslim communities and minorities. This is particularly true for the countries of Western Europe that have experienced influxes of Muslim immigrants over the last several decades from a variety of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian countries, as well as Turkey and the Balkans.
Today, although some Muslims in Europe are recent immigrants, others are second- or third-generation Europeans. While expanding Muslim communities pose significant social and economic policy questions for European governments, the realization that some segments of Europe’s Muslim populations, especially youth may be susceptible to radicalization and terrorist recruitment has also sparked sometimes exaggerated security concerns in the decade since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.
The fact is that the vast majority of Muslims in Europe are not involved in radical activities or support extremist movements. However, events such as the 2004 and 2005 terrorist attacks in Madrid and London did raise the question of whether European countries have done enough to integrate their Muslim communities and prevent feelings of social exclusion and marginalization.
Although not the sole cause of radicalization, some experts believe that past failures to fully integrate Muslims into mainstream European societies may make some Muslims in Europe more vulnerable to extremist ideologies.
At the same time, according to 2006 PEW survey that was conducted after Prophet Mohammed’s caricatures were published in Denmark, Muslims in Europe worry about their future. However, their concern is both economic and religious or cultural.
And while there are some signs of tension between Europe’s majority populations and Muslim minorities, Muslims there do not generally believe that most Europeans are hostile toward people of their faith. Still, over a third of Muslims in France and one-in-four in Spain say they have had a bad experience as a result of their religion or ethnicity.
Unfortunately, the recent participation of young men and women from Europe and USA in civil wars in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Syria have once again raised the question of radicalisation, extremism and even the danger of terrorism in the western societies when those youth return home.
Over the last several months, European governments have stepped up their efforts to improve the security control and little is being done to enhance Muslim integration. These have included introducing new laws to take away the citizenship of those who are suspected of traveling to Middle East to join the conflict. European governments are seeking to strengthen security measures and tighten immigration and asylum policies to prevent radicalization and combat terrorism.
EMISCO believes that promoting dialogue with Muslim organizations, establishing homegrown imam-training programs that will meet both the academic standards and the requirements of a proper Islamic knowledge that will not trigger suspicions of being possibly another tool for a “policy of assimilation”, improving educational and economic opportunities for Muslims, and tackling racism and discrimination is the right way to avoid extremism to take hold. A marginalized person is prone to propaganda of extremist ideologies and may fall victim to “Holy War” rhetoric.
Communication with parents and NGOs, establishing youth centers, putting in place workable rehabilitation programs and most importantly, listening to the grievances of Muslim minorities and removing the barriers would go a long way to eradicate the reasons of alienation and shut the door to extremism than punishing the misguided youth.
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