We have been losing the war against Islamic terror for the past fourteen years because we behave as if it is possible to beat it only by the use of military. Although we managed to bring Al-Qaeda to its knees, more terrorist groups despising the Western lifestyle emerged. Unless we oust Islamism from our cities politically, we can bomb as much as we want but there will always be thousands of jihadists hating what we love – freedom of an individual.
We have to start the battle at home – not in a desert hundreds of kilometres far away. If someone claims we should march against ISIS with ground troops, we should seriously ask what we would do in the area in three, five and ten years. Without a seriously well-advised plan we will only dig deeper into a destabilised region full of ethnic-confession conflicts; we will exhaust our security and political capacity in a very expensive and geographically distant war while the biggest battle should be fought on the home grounds.
In Europe we have thousands of ISIS sympathisers and also a perception that freedom of religion means that spreading of hateful totalitarian ideology is all right. European leaders are now looking for answers to thriving terrorist underworld. Expectations of their citizens say that the reaction has to be appropriately tough. However, before we send thousands of our soldiers to fight – according to jihadists – a holy war, we should cool down and think about it.
The protection of the citizens in Europe should be our primary interest. When intelligence services speak about thousands of IS sympathisers, it is our moral duty, which we owe to ourselves, to start at home. Specific measures already exist – all it needs is to stop being scared and start acting.
We need to have European Islam which would be compatible with human rights and other values of European communities. It is not to be found in Middle East. It is only our weakness that we let an ideology generating hundreds of terrorist, who want to destroy the very foundation of our civilisation, to be preached in Europe. In Austria any foreign funding of Islamic activities was outlawed (due to Turkish and Saudi ideological influence); furthermore, Austria took full control over educating of Imams. In Britain spiritual leaders preaching hatred against liberal democracy are strictly pursued. Specific Muslim activities are under supervision of intelligence services. If anyone in mosques or out of them calls or asks for violence and hatred, it is a civil duty of the witnesses to inform the police. It is important that we remind ourselves of it and require it – the rules in Europe apply to all.
Apart from that we also have to voice what will never be negotiated. Muslims, but also the major society, need to hear it. Freedom of caricaturing anyone and anything. Freedom of criticising anyone. Equality of men and women. Inadmissibility of ideological hatred towards Jews or homosexuals. Inadmissibility of draconic punishments for blasphemy or even infidelity. Superiority of secular right over religious norms.
These are the principles which will always be applied in Europe. It is the responsibility of our leaders to communicate it to our Muslims and make sure if they agree with it. It is very nice to hear about European Muslims to publicly condemn terrorist acts but it is really not enough. We need to ask European Muslims to what point they identify themselves with these basic principles which form the foundation of our free Western civilisation.
This is a translation of an article published 16.11.2015 on respekt.cz.
Jakub Janda is the Deputy Director of the European Values Think-Tank.