They will be back

Integration on its own, without the proper policies and strategy in place is not the solution

We cannot know what form the next threat will take, but we can be certain that they will be back – and we could be next. This is, shockingly, the new normal
We cannot know what form the next threat will take, but we can be certain that they will be back – and we could be next. This is, shockingly, the new normal

The origins of Isis reach back to 2004 when in June of that year its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed a new “caliphate”. From the early days of its formation, it promised to be a bloody crusade. It has since lived up to its promise. The Management of Savagery, a handbook for jihadis, which began circulating on jihadist Web sites in early 2004, urged violence in order to achieve the Islamists’ ultimate aim – a “caliphate”. 

“If we are not violent in our jihad and if softness seizes us that will be a major factor in the loss of strength. Dragging the masses into the battle requires more actions which will inflame opposition and which will make people enter into the battle, willing or unwilling,” writes Abu Bakr Naji, the book’s author and an al-Qaeda theorist. 

Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks was, reportedly, reluctant to attack Shiite civilians. Not so Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Baghdadi’s predecessor. Zarqawi’s aim was to attack Shiite Muslims, predominant in Iraq, in order to destabilise the country and, in so doing, force Sunni Muslims to take up arms to achieve their liberation after years of suppression under the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. 

In January 2004, Zarqawi wrote a letter to Osama Bin Laden, which was reproduced in Joby Warwick’s book – Black Flags. 

“The solution that we see, and God the Exalted knows better, is for us to drag the Shi’a into the battle because this is the only way to prolong the fighting between us and the infidels... The only solution for us is to strike the religious, military, and other cadres among the Shi’a with blow after blow until they bend to the Sunnis. Someone may say that, in this matter, we are being hasty and rash and leading the [Islamic] nation into a battle for which it is not ready, a battle that will be revolting and in which blood will be spilled. This is exactly what we want.”

From al-Baghdadi to Abdeslam

Following al-Zarqawi’s death, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi took over at the helm of Isis at a time when the group’s resources were at breaking point. It lacked money, fighters and a cause. The revolution in Syria provided it with all three. The toxic aftermath of the Syrian revolution plunged the Middle East and Europe into chaos, but proved to be a turning point for al-Baghdadi’s Islamic State. The US invasion of Iraq gave us the likes of al-Baghdadi, and the bombing of civilians the recruiting of new terrorists; the failed revolution in Syria gave us the likes of Salah Abdeslam. He was arrested in Brussels a few days after the terrorist attacks which left people dead at the Brussels airport and metro station. Abdeslam is accused of being one of the masterminds behind the Paris attacks, which left over 100 innocent civilians’ dead on the 13th November of last year. 

On Europe’s doorstep, Libya, five years on from Gaddafi is still torn by civil war and is a hotbed for criminals. It is estimated that by the end of 2015, Isis in Libya had rallied 5,000 fighters to its side, up from 1,000 from mid-2015. It is a war that has since left 5,000 dead, the Libyan economy in ruins and half a million homeless. 

The biggest criminal street gang of all

There are thousands of Salah Abdeslams in Syria, Libya and in major European cities ready to blow themselves up and bring about the death of innocent people. Brainwashed young people, made to believe that their goal is that of imposing Islamic rule without borders, determined to pave the way for a showdown between Muslims and ‘infidels’. The toxic aftermath of the Arab spring saw a disproportionate growth in the number of radicalised young Muslims in the Middle East and beyond. Isis is often described as a terrorist organisation, but it is more than that, it is the biggest criminal street gang of all. Gangs crop up when there are identity issues; rising unemployment; ethnic and religious issues; poverty, and lack of opportunity. Young people are often lured to gang membership for recognition; protection; money; impress friends; because they have nothing better to do, and to buy and use drugs. 

Media reports often cite suicide bombers uttering ‘Allah u Akbar’ as their last words before they wreak havoc. However, it is often the case that these suicide bombers have little if any clue of Islam and its teachings. They are led to believe that their actions shall be rewarded by a better afterlife, but they are lured to a criminal gang as is Isis with the promise of adrenaline, excitement, hanging out, committing crimes, status, and camaraderie. Gang membership and their families interact in a variety of roles. Gang members can be parents, or siblings. The Brussels airport suicide bombers were brothers; so were the Boston Marathon bombers. When asked by the media whether they were aware of their children’s radicalisation, parents often denied that their sons were gang members or had become radicalised, instead choosing to believe that they were involved with the wrong friends. 

Defending the neighbourhood is often cited as one of the primary reasons why young people join street gangs. Salah Abdeslam lived in one of Brussels’ run-down districts, predominantly Muslim and rife with unemployment and poor housing conditions. Several score of young French and Belgians, who live in the run-down districts of Brussels and Paris are often the perfect candidates for Isis gang membership and its aim to wreak havoc in European towns and cities. 

Terminating gang membership is not always easy and straightforward. Reports of young Europeans who joined Isis and sought to leave are not unheard of. Young ‘jihadi brides’ who went to Syria after being lured to the prospect of a better life through internet chat rooms have been widely reported. They, almost always, end in tears. Often, their only way out of the gang is death. 

Europe must act

It is a documented fact that Isis is losing its hold in the Middle East. Only recently, it lost Palmyra in Syria, which it had won months before. However, its defeat in Middle Eastern countries is often translated into acts of terror in Europe – often seen as a way of asserting its presence and might.

The policies of integration in European cities have clearly failed. Integration on its own, without the proper policies and strategy in place is not the solution. Europe needs to join the dots and realise that most young Europeans – often disenfranchised second- or third-generation immigrant youth, are being lured to a criminal gang, as is Isis, because of failed policies, lack of opportunities and want of a better life – which Isis, is of course, unable to provide. 

The head of the snake needs to be defeated, whilst the causes which lead to radicalisation need to be addressed. On both counts, the EU and its leaders have failed miserably. The EU has failed in getting the balance right between fighting Isis’s external dimension – its presence in Syria and Iraq and its internal dimension – the terror cells in European towns and cities, the radicalisation of young Europeans and the global spread of jihadi ideology. 

Admittedly, it is not an easy task. It boils down to a war between the civilised world, which loves life, and thousands of disenfranchised, brainwashed young people who love death – which makes the war on terror an increasingly difficult war to wage, and win and rendering our streets a more dangerous place. But Europe needs to act, fast. Europe’s stability and safety is constantly being challenged. The Brussels attacks and every attack of this nature sends another tremor through the structures of civil society. We cannot know what form the next threat will take, but we can be certain that they will be back – and we could be next. This is, shockingly, the new normal.

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