inFocus Quarterly Fall 2014
According to Professor Assaf Moghadam of the International Institute for Counter-terrorism, radical Muslims have a three-pronged enemies list of Jews, "apostate" Muslims, and the Christian nations of Europe. Israeli Jews are a principal target of the Islamists, but the extremists have had little success in their holy war against Israel. Iran and its allies, as well as ISIS have, however, made gains in battling the apostates in Syria, Iraq, and other Arab countries as the Arab Spring transformed into the Islamic Winter. Still, they have a long way to go before they can begin to reconstruct the Muslim Empire. In the meantime, radical Muslims already living in Europe form another front that is eating away at those secular democracies.
The danger of the growth of radical Islam in Europe is, as French journalist Michel Gurfinkiel observes:
…a philosophy and a way of life that reject democracy, the open society, and, needless to add, Jews. Islamists see Europe as an Islamic-society-in-the-making; attempts by ethnic Europeans or by democratically-minded Muslims to reverse that process, or to reconcile Islam with European and democratic values, are regarded prima facie as "Islamophobia": i.e., a Western war on Islam. Indeed, in the radical Islamic view, any objection or opposition to Islam or to the transformation of Western secular democracy into Islamic theocracy vindicates jihadism as a legitimate form of self-defense.
European Muslims are a heterogeneous group, with representatives from around the world, many of whom do not agree on interpretations of Islam. Because of their colonial ties, France has a large population of Muslims from North Africa while Britain's Muslims come mostly from Asia. France had a net influx of 66,000 Muslim immigrants in 2010 alone; the United Kingdom nearly 64,000. If current trends continue, with the non-Muslim population declining and the Muslim population growing exponentially, Pew forecasts that by 2030, the total Muslim population in Europe will increase from approximately 18 million to nearly 30 million and Muslims will make up more than 10 percent of the total population in 10 countries, including France and Belgium.
Some European countries are looking for ways to force Muslims to assimilate into their societies or to discourage them from immigrating or staying in their countries, and have adopted restrictions on ritual slaughter, circumcision, head coverings and the building of mosques. If Israel adopted any such restrictions on its Muslim citizens, the Europeans would be the first to condemn them, but hypocrisy has long been a hallmark of Europe's Middle East policy. The irony is that Jews are collaterally affected by bans on ritual slaughter and circumcision so they are opposed to such measures.
As Muslims become larger percentages of the population (today France is 7.5 percent Muslim, Germany 5 percent, the United Kingdom 4.6 percent, and Denmark 4 percent), they will have increasing political clout.
The impact of demographics, however, is not merely political. While Western countries are open to Muslims and the free practice of their religion, non-Muslims are not welcome in most Muslim countries. This one-sided flow of Muslims, including extremists, has allowed the radicals to find havens in European countries where they can recruit jihadists, plan attacks domestically and abroad, and take advantage of Western democracy to create bases of operations.
Public opinion polls present an alarming picture of the attitudes of Muslims in Europe. A Pew study in 2006, for example, asked Muslims and non-Muslims if they have a "favorable or unfavorable opinion of Jews." In the United Kingdom, 7 percent of the general public said they had an unfavorable attitude toward Jews compared with 47 percent of Muslims; in France, the corresponding figures were 13 percent and 28 percent; and in Germany, the results were 22 percent and 44 percent. While these figures are disturbing, they are still light years away from the hostility of Muslims in the Middle East where Pew's 2008 poll of Arab countries found that more than 95 percent of respondents, on average, had unfavorable impressions of Jews.
Meanwhile European Jews have witnessed a rising tide of anti-Semitism. In fact, a poll of Jews in Belgium, Britain, France, Germany Hungary, Italy, Latvia, and Sweden conducted in 2013 by the Fundamental Rights Agency (a European Union agency that monitors discrimination and other violations of basic rights) found that nearly one-third of European Jews are considering emigration because they don't feel safe. Two-thirds said they considered anti-Semitism to be a major problem, and 76 percent said the situation had grown worse in the last five years. The Jewish respondents said the threats came from Muslim extremists (27 percent), people with left-wing political views (22 percent), and people with right-wing views (19 percent).
As the European country with the largest Muslim population, it is not surprising that France has the most serious problem with Muslim-Jewish violence. As journalist Bernard Edinger reported, "Spontaneous, unprovoked attacks against Jews, overwhelmingly carried out by young Arabs, have traumatized French Jewry. Young religious Jews on their own have been officially advised by the rabbinate to wear baseball caps instead of kippas when using public transport or in the street." The situation has become so serious that 25 percent of French Jews have expressed a desire to emigrate.
In Great Britain, anti-Semitic literature is widely available in the British Muslim community and disseminated through libraries, mosques, and bookstores. One study found that Muslims are responsible for 30 percent of the anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, even though they comprised only 3 percent of the population. Another study found that 37 percent of British Muslims believe British Jews are "legitimate targets as part of the struggle for justice in the Middle East."
Smaller Jewish communities throughout Europe are especially vulnerable. In Norway, a country that has grown increasingly hostile to Israel, the largest anti-Semitic riots in the country's history were instigated by Muslims during Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza in 2009.
In August 2014, a Swedish woman wearing a Star of David was attacked while walking through a largely Muslim neighborhood, a suburb of the city of Uppsala. Approximately 700 Jews, mostly descendants of World War II refugees from Poland and Germany, live in Malmö, Sweden's third largest city, whose population of 300,000 is now estimated to be nearly one-fifth Muslim. Swedish Jews say they are targets of physical and verbal attacks, primarily by Muslims, and have reported record numbers of hate crimes. In 2010 and 2011, those complaints did not result in a single conviction. Not surprisingly, a survey found that 50 percent of Swedish Jews are afraid to openly identify themselves as Jewish.
"The increasingly isolated Jewish communities have become the targets of militant Muslim rage in much of Western Europe," observes historian Robert Wistrich. "Their synagogues, communal institutions and even cultural centers have steadily been turned into fortresses—for whose maintenance Jews have, in most cases, to bear the cost. No other ethno-religious group in Europe has had to take such drastic measures for its communal security."
The situation has become so bad in Europe, Wistrich believes, that "any clear-sighted and sensible Jew who has a sense of history would understand that this is the time to get out." Former Dutch defense minister, Professor Frits Bolkestein, was equally adamant about the fate of Jews in the Netherlands. "Jews have to realize," he said, "That there is no future for them in the Netherlands and that they best advise their children to leave for the United States or Israel."
Muslim anti-Semitism outside the Middle East has multiple roots. Inspiration can be found in the Koran, the media, sermons, the Internet, and the policies of Israel. It is also taught to Muslims in schools and mosques primarily financed by Saudi Arabia with the objective of indoctrinating Muslims with their Wahhabi beliefs and the conviction that Islam "is the superior religion and must always be so."
In the United Kingdom, for example, British filmmakers went undercover at the London Central Mosque and exposed imams "teaching the faithful that God orders them to kill homosexuals and apostates; that they should curtail the freedom of women; and that they should view non-Muslims in a derogatory manner and limit contact with them."
Furthermore, textbooks found in more than three dozen British Islamic schools and clubs "promoted dehumanizing and demonizing anti-Semitism, including the notion that Jews descended from 'monkeys' and 'pigs,' and tasking the schoolchildren to list the 'reprehensible qualities of Jews.'" Another study of Islamic schools found that some of the 166 full-time institutions taught the rejection of Western values and hatred of Jews.
The indoctrination in British schools is so serious that the director-general of MI5, Jonathan Evans, said in 2008 that the Saudi government's multimillion-dollar investments in British universities have led to a "dangerous increase in the spread of extremism in leading university campuses."
Meanwhile, Islamist violence continues to spread; attempted terrorist attacks were thwarted in Cyprus, Hungary, India, Turkey, Thailand, and Azerbaijan. In 2012, a bomb aboard a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria, killed the Bulgarian driver and five Israelis, and injured 32. It was only after Hezbollah's complicity in the Burgas attack was proven that the European Union finally designated Hezbollah's "armed wing" a terrorist organization. The decision came after roughly two decades of terror attacks and still maintained the specious distinction between Hezbollah's armed and political wings.
Criticism of Islam is already squelched through intimidation, violence, and threats of violence. Ayatollah Khomeini, for example, deemed Salman Rushdie's book Satanic Verses blasphemous and issued a fatwa calling for his murder. Dutch film director Theo van Gogh was killed after making a movie documenting violence against women in some Islamic societies; the film's writer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, received death threats and spent time in hiding. The Danish artist and publisher of cartoons depicting the Prophet faced death threats and provoked violent demonstrations by Muslims around the world.
The situation in Europe has become even more dangerous as Muslims who went to join the extremists fighting in Syria return home radicalized and trained in terrorist tactics. We saw what these returning fighters are capable of when Mehdi Nemmouche, who spent more than a year training with jihadists in Syria, shot four Jews at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
European leaders have historically been reluctant to speak out against Islamic radicalism for fear of being accused of "Islamophobia" or angering their Muslim citizens or countries in the Middle East that they depend on for oil. European intelligence agencies have been less circumspect in their analysis of the terror threats posed by Muslims in their countries. Growing concern that London has become a hub for the Muslim Brotherhood's extremist activities, for example, prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to order an investigation to determine whether the Brotherhood is planning attacks in the Middle East from Britain.
The beheading of American journalist James Foley by ISIS in Iraq has awakened the West to the growing threat of radical Islamists. Shortly after the grisly murder, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declared that ISIS terrorists "are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq or anywhere else" and "as sophisticated and well-funded as any group we have seen."
The British are even more alarmed, given the estimate that 1,500 British Muslims are fighting with ISIS, the largest number of Western recruits among foreign jihadists. One of these Islamist mercenaries may have beheaded Foley, just as Omar Sheik, a British terrorist of Pakistani descent, kidnapped and murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl 12 years ago.
While President Obama was focused on his golf game, British Prime Minister David Cameron cut short his holiday to address the growing threat. "The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home," he said. "Because if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain. We already know that it has the murderous intent. Indeed, the first ISIL-inspired terrorist acts on the continent of Europe have already taken place." Cameron declared that Europeans have "no choice but to summon up the political will to defend our own values and way of life with the same determination, courage and tenacity as we have faced danger before in our history."
It remains to be seen if Europeans are prepared to meet the challenge.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the author/editor of 23 books including After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine and Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam's War Against the Jews.