Leaving Islam





Now, the Madrid bombings and the van Gogh killing have strengthened the hand of engaged politicians, such as Germany's Social Democratic interior minister, Otto Schily, and the former French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, who leads the governing Union for a Popular Movement. They have also prompted Brussels, London, Madrid, Paris, and The Hague to increase resources and personnel devoted to terrorism.

In general, European politicians with security responsibilities, not to mention intelligence and security officials who get daily intelligence reports, take the harder U.S. line. Schily has called for Europe-wide "computer-aided profiling" to identify mujahideen. The emergence of holy warriors in Europe and the meiosis of radical groups once connected to al Qaeda have prompted several European capitals to increase cooperation on counterterrorism as well as their counterterrorism resources and personnel.

Yet a jihadist can cross Europe with little scrutiny. Even if noticed, he can change his name or glide across a border, relying on long-standing bureaucratic and legal stovepipes. After the Madrid bombings, a midlevel European official was appointed to coordinate European counterterrorist statutes and harmonize EU security arrangements. But he often serves simply as a broker amid the gallimaufry of the 25 member states' legal codes.

Since the Madrid bombings, the Spanish Interior Ministry has tripled to 450 the number of full-time antiterrorism operatives, and the Spanish national police are assigning a similar number of additional agents to mujahideen intelligence. Spanish law enforcement established a task force combining police and intelligence specialists to keep tabs on Muslim neighborhoods and prison mosques. Similarly, special police cells are being organized in each of France's 22 regions, stepping up the surveillance of mosques, Islamic bookshops, long-distance phone facilities, and halal butchers and restaurants.

The 25 EU members have also put into effect a European arrest warrant allowing police to avoid lengthy extradition procedures. Despite widespread concerns about possible privacy abuses, several EU countries have lowered barriers between intelligence and police agencies since the van Gogh murder. Germany aims to place its 16 police forces under one umbrella. In France, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, intelligence and police officers meet with officials in state-of-the-art communications centers, or "war rooms," to share information about interrogations, informant reports, live wiretaps, and video or satellite pictures.

Still, counterterrorism agencies remain reluctant to share sensitive information or cooperate on prosecutions. Measures proposed in the wake of the Madrid attacks, such as a Europe-wide fingerprint and DNA database and biometric passports, remain only that -- proposals. Fragmentation and rivalry among Europe's security systems and other institutions continue to hamper counterterrorism efforts. For nearly a decade, France has sought the extradition of the organizer of several bombings in the Paris metro in the 1990s, but his case languishes in the British courts to the anguish of the Home Office as well as Paris.

The new mujahideen are not only testing traditional counterterrorist practices; their emergence is also challenging the mentality prevailing in western Europe since the end of World War II. Revulsion against Nazism and colonialism translated into compassion toward religious minorities, of whatever stripe. At first, Muslim guest workers were welcomed in Europe by a liberal orthodoxy that generally regarded them as victims lacking rights. In some countries, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, that perspective spawned a comprehensive form of multiculturalism. London's version verged on separatism. While stepping up surveillance, the British authorities allowed Islamists refuge and an opportunity to preach openly and disseminate rabid propaganda. Multiculturalism had a dual appeal: it allowed these states to seem tolerant by showering minorities with rights while segregating them from, rather than absorbing them into, the rest of society. Multiculturalism dovetailed with a diminished Western ethos that suited libertarians as well as liberals.

But now many Europeans have come to see that permissiveness as excessive, even dangerous. A version of religious tolerance allowed the Hamburg cell to flourish and rendered German universities hospitable to radical Islam. Now Europeans are asking Muslims to practice religious tolerance themselves and adjust to the values of their host countries. Tony Blair's government requires that would-be citizens master "Britishness." Likewise, "Dutch values" are central to The Hague's new approach, and similar proposals are being put forward in Berlin, Brussels, and Copenhagen. Patrick Weil, the immigration guru of the French Socialist Party, sees a continental trend in which immigrant "responsibilities" balance immigrant "rights."

The Dutch reaction to van Gogh's assassination, the British reaction to jihadist abuse of political asylum, and the French reaction to the wearing of the headscarf suggest that Europe's multiculturalism has begun to collide with its liberalism, privacy rights with national security. Multiculturalism was once a hallmark of Europe's cultural liberalism, which the British columnist John O'Sullivan defined as "free[dom] from irksome traditional moral customs and cultural restraints." But when multiculturalism is perceived to coddle terrorism, liberalism parts company. The gap between the two is opening in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and to some extent even in Germany, where liberalism stretched a form of religious tolerance so much so that it allowed the Hamburg cell to turn prayer rooms into war rooms with cocky immunity from the German police.

Yet it is far from clear whether top-down policies will work without bottom-up adjustments in social attitudes. Can Muslims become Europeans without Europe opening its social and political circles to them? So far, it appears that absolute assimilationism has failed in France, but so has segregation in Germany and multiculturalism in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Could there be another way? The French ban the headscarf in public schools; the Germans ban it among public employees. The British celebrate it. The Americans tolerate it. Given the United States' comparatively happier record of integrating immigrants, one may wonder whether the mixed U.S. approach -- separating religion from politics without placing a wall between them, helping immigrants slowly adapt but allowing them relative cultural autonomy -- could inspire Europeans to chart a new course between an increasingly hazardous multiculturalism and a naked secularism that estranges Muslims and other believers. One thing is certain: if only for the sake of counterterrorism, Europe needs to develop an integration policy that works. But that will not happen overnight.


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