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Europe Agonistes

Federalism and the Future of Europe

Ultimate Jihad?

Could Europe’s struggle against Islamic terrorists become a guerrilla war?

Mike Ungersma looks for signs.

It must have a friendly population, not actively friendly, but sympathetic to the point of not betraying rebel movements to the enemy. Rebellions can be made by 2% active in a striking force, and 98% passively sympathetic.

T E Lawrence,  ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on guerrilla warfare [1]

In Syria, ISIS appears on the edge of defeat.  Cornered into a warren of narrow streets of Raqqa and Mosul, a few hundred determined fighters carry on, facing certain death.  But in the eyes of tens of thousands of fellow Muslims, it will be a heroic end bringing martyrdom and the promise of eternal life.  Where once thousands fought against the coalition, only a handful remain.  Observers on the ground tell us most have fled.  While no one is sure where, the fear is those who came from Europe may have returned there, battle-hardened and very experienced in the skills of irregular warfare.[2]

They will be going home to communities scattered across Europe and be seen, not as conquerors returning from a war to establish the 21st century’s first caliphate, but as sons and fathers (and a handful of daughters) who answered a particularly powerful and persuasive call – Jihad.  What will be their attitude as they recall their brutal exposure to war, toward their involvement in what many Muslims regard as an ultimate duty: participation in a holy war against infidels.  And crucially, how will they be greeted by their families and friends?

They will find the neighbourhoods they left have grown in size and purpose – almost nations ‘within nations’, especially in Britain, France, Germany and the Benelux countries.  There, despite the efforts of governments and charities to integrate Muslims, despite the countless initiatives to prevent Islamic extremists from spreading their messages, the ‘Islamification’ of dozens of European cities continues a pace.[3]

Sociologists[4] tell us these societies are increasingly unified, territorial and isolated, walled off from outside influence by language, religion and culture.  Subjected to what they regard as discrimination and prejudice, their populations are growing at a rate outstripping their non-Muslim hosts.  Worryingly, they show signs of become almost sovereign entities with their own schools, churches, and even a legal system, Sharia law.  They are as impenetrable from the outside, alien and hostile to European traditions and European history.

With these Jihadi now back on their streets, back in their mosques answering questions and relating their exploits to the admiring young and naive, the question that must be high on the agenda of Europe’s counter-terrorism experts is: Do they pose a new and more dangerous threat? Unthinkable as it may seem, might these emerging Muslim ‘nations’ soon gain a new attribute: a dedicated, determined and experienced army of Jihadi to protect them from us?  Will they become Islam’s promised ‘soldiers of the God’ to protect their mothers and sisters from insults and derision, shield their fathers and elders from taunts and threats by ultra-right extremists, and guard their mosques and holy places from further attack?  In short, are these former ISIS fighters a vanguard of a larger, more organised and trained guerrilla force that could carry terrorism to a frightening new level in Europe?

The situation is unprecedented, though anticipated two decades ago by the American historian Samuel P. Huntington in his controversial The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order:

Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.[5]

Nor is the future – given increasing Muslim settlement in Europe – much brighter. French politicians and intellectual, Pierre Lallouche:

History, proximity and poverty insure that France and Europe are destined to be over-whelmed by people from the failed societies of the south.  Europe’s past was white and Judeo-Christian.  The future is not.[6]

Huntington and Lallouche were writing as the 20th century drew to a close.  Since then, the situation has clearly worsened.  Should the terrorism Europe has already suffered become even more intense and more frequent – that is, show signs of being organised and directed – the response could be ugly.  Periodic vigilante attacks aimed at Muslims and mosques, could escalate to a systematic effort by the state to bring both sides under control.  Armed troops now routinely deployed in France and Belgium, could become an everyday sight in every European country, including Britain. Is the imposition of martial law, cloaked in the disguise of ‘aiding the police’ next?

Something has to give it seems.  Robert Verkaik, author of The Making of a Terrorist, wrote recently in the London Guardian, that Scotland Yard and MI5 share a database of 23,000 jihadist “subjects of interest”.  Of these, 3,000 are seen as posing a serious threat, and another 500 are given “the highest priority.”  In addition, there have been 8,000 referrals to the ‘Prevent’ anti-extremism programme.  He concludes: The security services are “drowning” in the sheer volume of intelligence and suspects.[7]

Furthermore, the jihadis know how to play the game – with cynicism.  To waste the time of the police and counter-terrorism authorities, they behave provocatively, “knowing that they’ll come under surveillance, but remain just on the right side of the law so as to ‘suck up’ resources”.[8]

Already the calls for action are becoming increasingly shrill: In his opening line to The Strange Death of Europe, Douglas Murray,  associate director of the Henry Jackson Society and associate editor of The Spectator, writes: “Europe is committing suicide, decadent and godless, and rendered helpless by our relativism, we have become easy prey for a resurgent Islam.”  As the few remaining committed Christians stare at the ‘bare, ruined choirs’, that have become bingo halls or social centres, Islam flourishes in every European country.

And, many argue, from the million Syrians accepted in Germany to the unstoppable flow of ‘refugees’ across the Mediterranean, we have brought this on ourselves. Rod Little, reviewing Murray’s book in the Sunday Times notes that opponents of mass immigration have always been dismissed as racist.  “But the Strange Death of Europe, he writes,  mordantly exposes many of the familiar canards that we have been fed on the subject – such as the claim that immigration brings great economic benefits, or that Britain has always been a nation of immigrants.

One of those presumptions was undermined last year when Dame Louise Casey published her controversial study into social integration of immigrants, and found “high levels of social and economic isolation in some places, and cultural and religious practices in communities that are not only holding some of our citizens back, but run contrary to British values and sometimes our laws.” The report, commissioned by former Prime Minister David Cameron, also found that “by faith, the Muslim population has the highest number and proportion of people aged 16 and over who cannot speak English well or at all.[9]

Or take the recent words of Sara Khan, a British Muslim and CEO of Inspire, an independent non-governmental organisation working to counter extremism and gender inequality.  Writing in the London Evening Standard, she says

The response after every Islamist attack is the same: politicians claim the perpetrators don’t represent the Muslim community – as if such a unified body even exists.  The reality is that the terrorists do represent a certain group of Muslims in the UK – one that promotes a supremacist, intolerant, anti-Western Islam on campuses, at community events and on line.[10]

In the event of a drastic escalation in violence – terrorism and an inevitable state-sponsored response – the result would be an asymmetric war terrorists could be certain of losing – the odds are too great, overwhelming even.  But the price all would pay, Muslims and everyone else, would be very high indeed.  At that level, repression of the terrorist threat would mean historic restrictions and unprecedented sacrifices of freedoms Europeans have taken for granted for decades.

Make no mistake, ISIS veterans are returning to our streets and neighbourhoods, and they are unlikely to respond to initiatives such as Britain’s ‘Prevent’ and other such initiatives. Young  Muslims may be beyond persuading.  Instead and predictably, the returning ‘warriors’ and those they can convince, will feel there is a score to be settled.  Defeated in Syria, their dreams of a new world-dominating caliphate in shatters, the life-changing experience of seeing death of friends and comrades up-close, in a word – ignominy. Everywhere and at every opportunity – they will want to get even.  ‘Post Traumatic Stress’ takes on a fearful meaning for these young men and women who were willing to give their lives for their beliefs.  Are they still willing to make this sacrifice?

Perhaps this is the real tragedy surrounding the awful, shocking, heart-rendering events of Paris, Nice, Berlin, Brussels, Manchester, and on and on.  The distorted and grotesquely displaced idealism of young Muslims.  A dilemma made more profound because there seems to be no answer, no solution.  There is an inevitability about it that haunts everyone.

Roger Kimball, editor of The New Criterion, has characterised the response of Western elites to the terrorist outrages as a combination of sentimentality and apology, what he calls a “Kumbaya sentimentality”. Now, however, he senses a new feeling:

We have certainly heard a reprise of that tired song in the immediate aftermath of the Manchester massacre.  But we have also heard some refreshingly discordant, refreshingly adult notes.  There is anger in that descant, justified anger.  There is also the burgeoning awareness that the culture under threat, whatever its faults, is very much worth preserving.  That dual reality – a newfound awareness fired by anger – may yet rescue us from our more hapless selves.


[1] T. E. Lawrence, On guerrilla warfare, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 14th edition (1929) Accessed on-line

[2] “ISIS: Up to 5,000 jihadists could be in Europe after returning from terror training camps abroad.” independent.co.uk, February 20, 2016

[3] “5 facts about the Muslim population in Europe”, The Pew Research Center, July 19, 2016 Accessed on-line

[4] Can mostly Christian countries integrate Muslims? This new book shows what must be done.” The Washington Post, December 1, 2015

[5] The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel P. Huntington, 1996

[6] Quoted in Strangers at the Gate, Judith Miller, New York Times Magazine, September 15, 1991

[7] Robert Verkaik, quoted in The Week, London, 17 June 2017, p 23

[8] Ibid, from an article by Dipesh Gadher in the Sunday Times

[9] “Segregation at ‘worrying levels’ in parts of Britain”, Dame Louise Casey warns, BBC, 5 December 2016

[10] London Evening Standard, Tuesday 6 June 2017.



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