Radical Islamism calls for violent action to change the world order which, in their perception, is based on Western values that are anti-Islamic. The terrorist acts of radical Islamists are the most immediate and pressing national security concern for Europe. Radical Islamist organizations, and especially “The Islamic State” (known as ISIS), have managed to garner support among Muslims who were brought up in Europe after they or their parents moved there some decades ago and have gained the support of European converts to Islam. Their agitation system uses social media, religious activities in mosques and beyond, and missionaries in European prisons. Many of those who joined the jihadi ranks of ISIS in countries like Syria and Iraq are now heading back home to Europe. Thus, a similar pattern to the one that took place several decades ago, when the early Al-Qaeda jihadists returned from Afghanistan “importing” jihad to their home countries, is already noticeable.
No less dangerous to European national security, although the danger they pose is less immediate, are the “Realistic Radical Islamists,” better known as the “Muslim Brotherhood.” Just like the “violent Extremists,” they are also committed to changing the world order as soon as possible and replacing it with an Islam-based order, as they interpret it. However, since they believe that Islam does not have enough strength at this point to force such a revolution, they consider the use of force in Europe as counterproductive for now and justify it only in the Middle East and especially against Zionists, rival pragmatic Muslims, or Westerners in cases where they see them as “occupiers” or “oppressors.” In Europe, they have developed a theory that calls for promoting change through proselytization [da’wah] and political activism, keeping their support of terror at a low profile. The Realistic Radical Islamist system in Europe is very large and, in many cases, seen by the authorities as the interlocutor for the local Muslim community. As such, it enjoys legitimacy and relatively broad freedom of action.
The big wave of Muslim immigrants and asylum seekers that found refuge in Europe in recent years, and especially after the Iran Nuclear Deal was concluded in 2015, exacerbated the threat of Radical Islam for various reasons. First, it provided radical Islamists an opportunity to send operatives to Europe and to enable the return to Europe of some of the volunteers who came from Europe to help ISIS in the Middle East. Beyond that, it created a new reservoir of potential audiences for recruitment to both “realistic” and “violent” Islamist camps that may bolster the effort to replace the existing Western world order.
The immigration wave reflected the concerns and despair of mostly pragmatic Muslims who realized that the West has surrendered to the Shiite and Sunni Radicals the hegemony and control of the Middle East, and therefore there is no room and no hope for them there. Another part of the immigrants is made of Realistic Radical Muslims who were also driven out from their original homes, especially in Syria. Upon their arrival to Europe, the immigrants are approached by a local Realistic Radical Islamist organization, sometimes with the acquiescence of the local state, and a considerable portion of them go through a process of integrating into radical structures. This is true of those who arrive as realistic radicals, but it also applies to some of the pragmatists, because they wish to preserve their Islamic culture and are not interested and are not welcome to integrate into the wider local society.
This almost inevitable process leads more Muslims in Europe toward Radical Islam, with many adopting the Realistic attitude and a few going through the radicalization process all the way toward “violent extremism,” including readiness to carry out terror attacks on European soil.
In parallel, the immigration to Europe of dissidents who seek refuge, including from Iran, brings to Europe Iranian state terrorism, as manifested in the several attempts by Iranian operatives to carry out terror attacks in Europe against Iranian opposition activists.
Meeting the Threats
Dealing with this growing threat requires multiple changes:
- Improving counter-terrorism systems, and especially the cooperation between intelligence organizations in vetting the immigrants and following their integration in their new country.
- Adopting a policy that clarifies why Westerners are proud of the world order they have developed and that they are ready to protect it, instead of being shy about it.
- Opposing all kinds of Radical Islamism in Europe (and in the Middle East) and promoting pragmatic forces within Islam by treating them as the interlocutors for local Islamic communities.
- Supporting efforts to limit the power and presence of Radical Islamists in the Middle East. After depriving ISIS of its Caliphate, it is necessary to take the necessary steps (isolation and sanctions) to weaken Iran and force it to give up its imperialistic ambitions.
- Much more investment is necessary in those countries from which Muslim immigration stems because of economic reasons. Success in the two last endeavors may convince many of the immigrants to return to their home countries.
The adoption of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal), in the July 2015, signaled a major achievement of the radical camp, led by Iran, in the battle over the fate of the Middle East, and especially Syria, waged against the pragmatists led by Saudi Arabia. By legitimizing Iranian nuclear ambitions, Barack Obama sought to strengthen Tehran to secure a “cold peace” between the Iranians and the Saudis, in the hope that their proxy wars in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq would finally end. In other words, Obama wanted the two regimes to “share” the Middle East.1 However, it is increasingly apparent that Obama did not foresee the potential ramifications this move would have, not only within the region but also throughout the entirety of Europe.
The clear path toward a nuclear weapons arsenal and inevitable regional supremacy that was given to Iran made the pragmatic Sunni Arabs in the Middle East, and especially in Syria, realize that the region was bound to succumb to Iranian ambitions and Sunni ultra-extremism exemplified by ISIS.
The pragmatists and some of the Realistic Radical Sunnis, especially those in Syria who were already suffering at the hands of the brutal Assad regime or had already moved to neighboring countries such as Turkey and Lebanon, read the writing on the wall. They lost hope that they would ever be able to return to their hometowns and villages and live there the way they wanted, and therefore they decided to migrate to Europe for the sake of starting a better life. This is one of the major sources of the wave of refugees that flooded Europe in 2015 and kept flowing since, and this is the component of the Muslim immigration that is beyond the usual immigration trend motivated by economic considerations.
Once they reached Europe, the pragmatists split into those who remained committed to living as Muslims peacefully in Europe, and those who lost hope of being able to do so. The latter group, disgruntled by their lack of success and in dire need of vindication, searched for a body that could represent them socially and politically. Often, they found such a political and religious home in local organizations belonging to the Realistic Radical school of thought – mainly those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of these organizations were formed by previous Muslim immigrants to Europe and dominate the Muslim political scene, having been successful in their great efforts to position themselves as the interlocutors on behalf of the Muslim communities with the local governments. Some of these individuals go further and end up joining radical elements at the fringes of the Muslim community, such as the Salafi Jihadists.
Understanding the Muslim Brotherhood
The process of internationalization of the Muslim Brotherhood has been covered in depth by the Jerusalem Center.2 The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hasan al-Banna for the purpose of reuniting the Muslim nation [ummah] following the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Since then, the Brotherhood has evolved into a colossal transnational, Pan-Islamic ideological network – known as the Global Muslim Brotherhood (GMB) – which is allegedly active in more than 80 countries worldwide. Muslim Brotherhood affiliates emphasize the need for grassroots work via coordinated and guided “civil society” groups in fields like education, welfare, medical services, and religious institutions, known as the da’wah (proselytization) system.
The main trigger that caused the movement to internationalize was Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s “ordeal” in 1954, in which many members of the Brotherhood were arrested, deported, killed, or fled Egypt. Of those who fled, many relocated to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. A third, much smaller and less organized group, relocated to the United States and a few European countries, such as West Germany, where they enrolled as students in local universities. These students proved to be the most effective in disseminating the ideology of the Brotherhood on a broader scale. The privilege of living in a liberal democracy as students allowed them to nurture their ideology and spread it to their Muslim peers, and later to non-Muslim scholars and leftist oppositionists. Over time, as they developed more institutions and organizations that brought the teachings of Islam to the masses, the Brotherhood gradually became associated with the “establishment,” serving as the gateway between the European Muslim community and local and national governments.3
In addition to the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, it is imperative to understand their ideology to discern whether they should be considered a moderate Islamist alternative to violent groups like Al-Qaeda, or as a harbinger of modern terrorism.4 As stated previously, Al-Banna initially envisioned the Brotherhood as a movement whose purpose was to reintroduce Islam into Muslim territories to counter the rise of secularism and Western imperialism. He aimed to achieve this goal via proselytization in mosques, schools, parks, etc. The rise of Sayyed Qutb, the Brotherhood’s chief ideologue in the 1960’s, resulted in a drastic alteration of Al-Banna’s vision. Qutb believed that the entire world was in a state of jahiliyyah (ignorance), and the only way to remedy this was the unification of the Muslim world into a caliphate governed by Sharia Law, even if attained through violence.5
Beginning in the late 1980s, the Muslims who fled to the West following the “ordeal” in 1954 had become accustomed to life there. As such, the perception of some Islamist theologians regarding the West changed; they no longer considered it Dar al-Kufr (the Land of Unbelief) or Dar al-Harb (the Land of War), but rather as Dar al-da’wah, sometimes even Dar al-Islam, where Muslims had the right to try to convince the local population, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to live according to Sharia Law.6
Following this ideological shift, a new legal doctrine was introduced in the 1990s by two notable Islamic figures, Shaykh Dr. Taha Jabir Al-Alwani of Virginia, and Shaykh Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi of Qatar. Titled “Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat” (the minorities’ jurisprudence), the doctrine focuses on aspects of daily life for the Muslim minority in the West so that Muslims can live in harmony with the Westerners while still abiding by the dictates of Islam.7 The logic behind Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat lies partly in the general approach of the Brotherhood that questions the conditions for the use of violence, and partly in its realism, namely, the understanding that Islam does not have at this point the power to force its opinion onto the West, definitely not in the West itself. Therefore, the Brotherhood seeks allies and partners within the European society that will increase its ability to make its da’wah effective. The Brotherhood does not see the West as an amalgamation of nation-states like the Westerners do, but rather as one single entity. This is consistent with the Brotherhood’s idea that Islam is a religion which will eventually encompass the entire globe. Therefore, Muslims living in the West do not need to emigrate back to Dar al-Islam, because the whole world is destined to become Dar al-Islam. These nonviolent ideas were adopted by the “realistic radicals,” who were starkly opposed to the “ultra-radicals” who engaged in violence.8
To simplify the Brotherhood’s ideology, consider the following metaphor: In the book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” it is discovered via a planet-sized supercomputer that the meaning of life is the number 42. One way to interpret this is that life is meaningless. In other words, there is a crisis of meaning in the West. The Brotherhood and its leaders, such as Qutb and Qaradawi, recognized this crisis and sought to use it to their advantage by offering the Westerners the only meaningful way possible for salvation – Islam.
Despite its non-violent messages and desire “to save” the West, many contemporary GMB leaders support violence in cases of conflict or the war on terror where they perceive Muslims to be under “colonialist” occupation and entitled to wage legitimate Resistance [muqawamah], such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, or in Iraq or Africa. The most central figures in the GMB and Hamas have also joined forces with leading Salafi and Salafi-jihadi figures as founding members of the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign (GAAC), an international, anti-Western umbrella that was mainly active between 2003 and 2016. At least seven leading GAAC figures and/or their organizations have been designated as terrorists by the United States, the European Union, and/or the United Nations for their support of Al-Qaeda and related groups.9 Such cooperation continues and can be seen when looking at the participants in various conferences held in Turkey, especially around Israel-related issues.
Qaradawi, himself a founding member of the GAAC, has called for violence toward the Zionists in Israel, as well as American soldiers in Iraq.10 Moreover, GMB structures are intimately linked to Hamas, the genocidal terrorist organization that rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas itself is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and its charter states unequivocally that, “The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.”11 This background explains Hamas’ move in late April 2017 to publish its “Document of General Principles and Policies” as well as Hamas’ current status in GMB structures.
For many years, Hamas and its supporters claimed that its 1988 charter – infamous for its robust anti-Semitism – is irrelevant to many of its members and is being reviewed. Eventually, the April 2017 document was published with the aim of updating Hamas’ ideology and principles, but did not replace the original charter. Various analysts noted that the document did not mention Hamas’ Muslim Brotherhood affiliation and concluded that that Hamas had disavowed the Brotherhood. In fact, Hamas merely adopted a similar language used by other Global Muslim Brotherhood affiliates to avoid referring to their linkages with the “official” movement. Hamas leader Khaled Mashal, for example, explained, “Hamas belongs to the Brotherhood’s school of thought, but it is an independent Palestinian organization, not affiliated with any organization here or there.”12
Earlier in January 2017, a Hamas delegation went to Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s nemesis. Mahmoud Al -Zahar reported on an improvement in the relations between Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, and Cairo, confirming that an agreement had been reached on “border control” between the Strip and Egypt.13 Thus, it could be that the attempt to distance Hamas from the Brotherhood has also been made as part of these understandings. In any case, it does not seem that any changes have been made in the efforts made by the Global Muslim Brotherhood to support and promote Hamas. On the contrary, they have nurtured and further developed the Popular Conference of Palestinians Abroad (PCPA), the global pro-Hamas umbrella group that focuses its work on the Palestinian “diaspora,” a topic previously covered in a Jerusalem Center article.14
In a report submitted to the House of Commons, former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir John Jenkins stipulated that the Brotherhood had “deliberately, wittingly, and openly incubated and sustained an organization – Hamas – whose military wing has been proscribed in the UK as a terrorist organization.” Furthermore, support for Hamas is considered a high priority for the Brotherhood both in Egypt and internationally. The Brotherhood has a staunch record of defending Hamas suicide attacks against Israel, and some of its charities have had links to Hamas, such as the UK charity Interpal, which was designated as a terrorist entity by the U.S. Department of Treasury.15
The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe
Although the Muslim Brotherhood projects an ostensibly peaceful image, hints of violent undertones frequently surface.
This is a problem for Europe. The influx of millions of refugees and asylum seekers into Europe in recent years changed the demographic makeup of the continent, and since most of the Muslims, including the new immigrants, live in and around the major cities, their presence is a noticeable issue. The prevalence of realistic radicalism in European Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups means that millions of Muslim migrants are now exposed to radicals in sheep’s clothing. The migrants may not notice the extremism of realistic radicals like the Brotherhood due to them not outwardly preaching violence, but their ideology will serve as a springboard that can lead some of the migrants toward more violent groups.
Just how deep are the roots of the Brotherhood in Europe?
The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) is an umbrella group consisting of member organizations from 28 countries across Europe. FIOE maintains a strong link to the main Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in Europe, as well as Hamas.16 One of FIOE’s stated goals is the appointment of Muslims to influential positions in Europe. This is indicative of their aspiration to become powerful players on the continent, and how far they intend to spread their influence. In addition, according to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there are over 500 Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in Europe.17
At the same time, it is important to realize that the number of GMB activists is rather small, and they usually operate in many of these organizations simultaneously and move between them.
Below is a breakdown of the state of the Brotherhood in the European countries where it has become particularly noteworthy:
In 2016, the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, BfV), stated that the Brotherhood has more than 1,040 adherents in Germany.18 Gordian Meyer-Plath, president of the regional department of the German domestic security and anti-terrorist organization, stated that “The Muslim Brothers still want to establish Sharia law in Germany.”19 German authorities view the Brotherhood as a graver threat to Germany’s democracy than groups like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.20
The central and most important Brotherhood-affiliated organization and also the largest Islamic organization in the country,21 is the Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland e.V. (IGD) In addition to its headquarters in Cologne, the IGD has – by its own account – “Islamic Centers” in Munich, Nuremberg, Stuttgart, Frankfurt on the Main, Marburg, Brunswick, and Münster.22 The IGD has raised funds for Hamas during its conflicts with Israel23 and has also been involved in the campaign to delegitimize Israel as the Jewish state.24
Furthermore, in countries like Germany and Austria, which have large Turkish communities, the question of involvement of the Turkish government or groups linked to it is becoming increasingly important, especially since Turkey utilizes GMB structures in many countries for such purposes. In early January 2019, for example, the Türkisch-Islamische Union der Anstalt für Religion e.V. or Diyanet İşleri Türk-İslam Birliği (DITIB), another large Islamic organization with Turkish ties, held a three-day conference in Cologne-Ehrenfeld, organized by the Turkish Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), which hosted Diyanet’s President Ali Erbaş and senior GMB figures.25
As one of the most important countries for Brotherhood operations outside of the Middle East, the United Kingdom hosts dozens of groups which may be affiliated with the Brotherhood (but most of which deny this affiliation). Steven Merley, the editor of Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch and a leading expert on the Brotherhood’s activities in Europe, stated that “Britain is the command and control center for the Brotherhood in Europe. Nowhere else comes close – that is undeniable.”26
In 2014, the Brotherhood’s central arm – the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) – claimed a membership of just 600 people.27 UK Brotherhood affiliates have consistently defended Hamas attacks against Israel, including suicide bombings, and some also condoned attacks against British forces in Iraq. Only recently, Mohammed Sawalha, a senior veteran figure affiliated with the Brotherhood and a former member of Hamas’ politburo, left his position as a trustee at the Finsbury Park Mosque. The mosque, close to the neighboring Muslim Brotherhood-aligned Muslim Welfare House (MWH)28 and the MAB29 claimed they were “unaware of his Hamas role.”30
Several key organizations affiliated with the GMB had their headquarters in Belgium, including FIOE, and the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), which presents itself as the “de facto voice of Muslim Youth in Europe.” FEMYSO claims it “developed useful links with the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations, and a host of other significant organizations at the European and international level.”31
A Belgian parliamentary report on Islamic radicalism showed that the Belgian Brotherhood and FIOE are linked with the controversial League of the Muslims of Belgium (LMB). Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Hassan al-Banna who also shares similar ideology, has lectured in Muslim Brotherhood institutions in the country.32 Furthermore, the Belgian State Security Service has been monitoring the activities of the Belgian Brotherhood since the 1980s. In the 1990s, the Al-Aqsa Humanitaire was founded as the Belgian branch of the Al-Aqsa Foundation, a now UN-designated terrorist organization that provided funding for Hamas. In 2001, the entirety of the Al-Aqsa Foundation, including the Belgian branch, were listed as founding organizations of the Union of Good, a network of charities under the leadership of radical Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.33
According to the World Almanac of Islamism, Muslim Brotherhood affiliates maintain a serious presence in Spain, largely in the regions of Andalusia, Valencia, and Madrid.34 In late 2017, the Arab Weekly reported a recent upsurge in Muslim Brotherhood activity in the Catalonian region in the form of organizing forums, building schools, and providing social services, in a bid to increase its legitimacy.35 FIOE is represented in Spain by the Liga Islamica Por El Dialogo Y Convivencia (Islamic League for Dialogue and Coexistence.) In 2009, an independent, self-regulatory imam-training organization was formed, which has ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood.36 In 2018, Alaa Mohamed Said, an imam in Logroño and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was deported to Egypt for being a “national security threat.”37 Some leaders of the Unión de Comunidades Islámicas de España (Union of Islamic Communities of Spain) maintain ties with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. Among these leaders was Imam Abdelbaki Es Satty, who is believed to have radicalized members of his community of Ripoll and masterminded the 2017 Barcelona attacks, which killed 13 people and injured 130.38 Es Satty died during the attack when explosives he had stockpiled in his apartment blew up.
France has also been a key country for Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated activities. The Musulmans de France (MF), formerly the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), was linked to the CBSP (Palestinian Charitable and Relief Committee), a charity that was designated by the U.S. Treasury for Hamas funding in 2003.39 Furthermore, anti-Semitic messages were found on UOIF’s website, as well as messages advocating terrorism and calling for Jihad.40 Brotherhood-affiliated organizations in France also cooperate with the government on education. Israeli Middle East expert and Arab affairs commentator Tzvi Yehezkeli compared the education Muslim children in France receive to that of Palestinian Arab children in the Gaza Strip under Hamas.41
Violent Islamist extremism is a rather recent phenomenon in Italy, beginning in the early 2000s. While some smaller-scale attacks have occurred on Italian soil, Italy has luckily largely escaped the wider scale attacks committed in other parts of Europe. UCOII, a FIOE member organization, is the largest Islamic organization affiliated with the Brotherhood in Italy. It enjoys a quasi-monopoly on almost all Italian mosques. Its members have expressed support for suicide bombings, downplayed beheadings, and have repeatedly uttered anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs.42 In April 2017, it was reported that the Italian government signed an agreement with the UCOII to provide “moderate” imams to combat radicalization in the country’s prisons.43
Tariq Suwaidan, a leading Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood figure and founding member of the aforementioned Global Anti-Aggression Campaign (GAAC) visited Italy in 2013.44 Suwaidan is also known for his anti-Semitic Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Jews. He was invited to speak in Italy again in May 2016, but his entry was barred by the Ministry of the Interior.45
In March 2017, a report commissioned by Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) to look into the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in the country was published. The report claims that the Brotherhood dominates the state-sponsored part of the domestic Muslim community. Large sums of Swedish taxpayers’ money are granted to various Brotherhood-affiliated organizations, meaning that Swedish citizens are unwittingly aiding in building the Brotherhood’s infrastructure in the country.46
Ronald Sandee, a former senior analyst with Dutch Military Intelligence and an expert on terror and radicalization, confirms that over the last decade, the Brotherhood has gained a firm grip on the Muslim community in the Netherlands and is broadening its influence into local and national politics with the help of left-wing parties such as Groen Links and the PvdA. In 2011, an investigation by the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) into the Brotherhood concluded that although they pose no current threat to national security, they could become a risk in the future.47
In an Austrian academic report published in 2017, Lorenzo Vidino wrote that the Brotherhood’s use of victimhood and justification of violence creates a “fertile environment for radicalization” that has been particularly evident in Austria in recent years.48
In February 2016, a state-funded study into Islamic kindergartens in Vienna suggested that Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Turkish counterpart Milli Gorus have links to some of the capital’s preschools. Ednan Aslan, the author of the report, found that the religious education preached by several of the capital’s 150 Muslim establishments led to “theologically-motivated isolation” and robbed children of their autonomy through “intimidation.” The study concluded, “Intellectual Salafists and political Islamists are the dominant groups in the Islamic kindergarten scene in Vienna.”49
Muslim Migration to Europe
It is important to focus on recent migration patterns of Muslims into Europe and to analyze whether there is a correlation between the rise in migration and the rise in terror activity. In 2017, the Pew Research Center released a detailed report outlining the growth of the European Muslim community between 2010-2016 and then projecting the possible size of the community under three different scenarios by 2050. Between 2010-2016 the Muslim population in Europe increased from 19.5 million to almost 26 million, or 3.8 to 4.9 percent of the entire European population (figure 1).50 Between 2014-2016, 7 million people migrated to Europe, of whom 2.5 million were regular Muslim migrants and 1.3 million were Muslim refugees, or 78 percent of total refugees (figures 2 & 3).51
Under the “zero migration” scenario (no migrants entering Europe), the Muslim population is expected to rise from 26 million people to 36 million, an increase from 4.9 percent to 7.4 percent. Under the “medium migration” scenario (regular migration continues, and refugee flows cease), the Muslim population will likely increase to 57 million, or 11.2 percent of the population. Under the “high migration” scenario (the refugee flows of 2014-2016 continue), that number should increase to roughly 76 million, or 14 percent of the population (figures 1 & 4).52
The effects of the growth in recent years become even more tangible when observing countries that have been particularly affected by the migration wave. For example, Germany received 670,000 refugees between 2010-2016, roughly 86 percent of whom are Muslims. In total, Germany’s Muslim population rose from 3.3 million to 5 million in that period, growing from 4.1 percent of the population to 6.1 percent. The United Kingdom, which accepted relatively few refugees by EU standards, was the most popular destination for regular migrants (1.6 million), 43 percent of whom were Muslims. The United Kingdom’s Muslim population increased by over 1 million altogether in this period. France’s Muslim population also rose by 1 million during this period, reaching nearly 6 million at the time of the study, the largest amount in the Western world. Finally, Sweden received more refugees in proportion to its population than the United Kingdom and France, which have much larger populations. Overall, 300,000 Muslim migrants – 160,000 of whom were refugees – arrived in Sweden during this period, almost doubling the Muslim population there, which in 2016 was 8 percent.53
Between 2014-2017, 1.8 million migrants received refugee status in Europe, with more than 1 million arriving just in 2015 (figure 5).54 In 2015, migrants entering Europe through the Mediterranean Sea – the main thoroughfare for Muslim migrants into Europe55 – started at a low point of 6,000 entries in January, reached a maximum of 220,000 entries in October, and ended the year with 119,000 entries in December (figure 6).56
Since the 2015-2016 peak, the number of refugee entries into Europe has been diminishing. The number of arrivals into Greece, Spain, and Italy, the three main points of entry into Europe due to proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, has steadily declined.57 In fact, according to Frontex (the European Border and Coast Guard Agency), 2017 saw a 60 percent decrease in all irregular crossings into the European Union and 43 percent fewer asylum applications, thereby restoring the situation to pre-crisis levels.58 This decline continued in 2018, when Italy, who in 2017 received 119,000 irregular migrants (67 percent of all irregular migrants entering the European Union), only received 20,000 by mid-September 2018.59
This decline is caused by a combination of reasons. First, many of those who wanted to immigrate have already done so. Second, some of those who were hesitating, once again became hopeful that they could return to their original homes, following the developments in eastern Syria, and in light of the change in American policy under President Trump. The United States sided with the pragmatists in the Middle East at the expense of the realistic radicals, escalated the war against ISIS, and withdrew from the JCPOA. Finally, these potential immigrants realized that life in Europe is not easy for Muslim migrants. The 2016 EU deal with Turkey, new border fences in the Balkans, and the 2017 arrangement between Italy and Libya, also contributed to this matter.60
Radical Islamist terrorism in Europe is not a new phenomenon. Europe has been the stage for some of the most horrible terror attacks by Muslim radicals, at the beginning primarily against Israeli targets, and later against Western targets (such as the 2004 Madrid Train Bombings and the 7/7 attack in London in 2005). Until recently, the attacks against the West were carried out to a large extent by homegrown radical Muslims who were educated in Europe, causing much frustration in European society. These radical Muslims continue to be the backbone of Islamic ultra-radicalism in Europe. However, the evidence suggests that the migration wave that began in 2014 increased the threat of Islamic extremism in Europe. Since 2014, almost 1,000 people have been injured or killed in terrorist attacks perpetrated by asylum seekers or refugees, and 16 percent of Islamist plots in Europe featured asylum seekers or refugees. These attacks occur most often within three years of arrival into Europe, and the plurality of terrorists hailed from Syria.61 In addition, as many as 5,000 Europeans went to fight in Syria and Iraq, with 30 percent of them returning to Europe62 where they can move freely from country to country thanks to the Schengen Agreement.
Furthermore, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation revealed that the number of jihadist attacks in Europe increased from 13 in 2016 to 33 in 2017.63 The agency also noted that Islamic terror attacks killed a total of 135 out of all the 142 people killed in terror attacks in 2016, a massive increase from the four people killed by terror the year before.64 Radicalization inside European prisons is also a well-documented problem, which has resulted in many released prisoners committing terrorist attacks. According to the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, radicalization in European prisons is widespread, and these jails serve as a “massive incubator for radicalization.”65 Prime examples of this trend are Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks, and the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shooters Amedy Coulibaly and Cherif Kouachi.66
As mentioned, conversions to Islam could also pose a danger to the West due to the heightened susceptibility of converts to radical ideology. Research published by the Henry Jackson Society think tank found that Muslim converts are more susceptible to radicalization than non-converts due to their “vacuum of knowledge,” which renders them unable to reject extremist ideology.67 In fact, converts have been involved in Jihadist activity since before Al-Qaeda was fully formed. For example, two converts were among the team that plotted to blow up landmarks and tunnels in New York City in the 1990s “TERRSTOP” scheme. Other examples include German citizen Christian Ganczarski, who became a prominent Al-Qaeda operative and was connected to a 2002 bombing in Djerba, Tunisia, as well as Jamaican-born, English-raised Germaine Lindsay, who was a member of the cell responsible for the 2005 London Tube attacks. The list goes on and on.68
According to German authorities, there are an estimated 10,800 domestic Salafist Jihadists who can potentially radicalize incoming asylum seekers, and ISIS has reportedly used the recent wave of migration to Germany to sneak their own fighters into the country for this very purpose. This is in addition to the 950 members of Hizbullah and 320 Hamas members in Germany as of 2017, according to the Bfv (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution). More German citizens have died in Islamic terror attacks since September 11, 2001, than in the entirety of the violence perpetrated by the Red Army Faction, a far-left terror group that operated in Germany for over 30 years.69
The UK government views Islamic extremism and related homegrown radicalization as its chief security concern due to the high volume of terrorist attacks on British soil. Radicalization runs rampant in UK prisons (as it does in many EU countries), and not enough has been done to combat this phenomenon both inside prison and after the convicts are released.70 Gilles De Kerchove, the EU’s counter-terror coordinator, revealed that there are roughly 25,000 Islamist radicals in the United Kingdom, of whom 3,000 are considered a direct threat by MI5 and 500 are under constant surveillance by the authorities. De Kerchove also warned of radicalization in prisons, stating, “In prison, they will reinforce their beliefs and leave even more furious with the West.”71 While the exact number of individuals radicalized in prisons is unknown, the UK government has significantly increased efforts to combat this phenomenon. Besides separating the radicals from the potential radicals within the prisons, the government has appointed 100 counter-terrorism specialists and trained more than 13,000 frontline staff to ensure they can identify, report, and tackle extremist behavior in prisons.72
More than 500 Belgians are believed to have left the country to fight as terrorists abroad, according to the Belgian government. The returning foreign fighters pose a severe threat to the country and its neighbors. As mentioned, prime examples of this are Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the mastermind behind the November 2015 Paris attacks in which 130 people were murdered, and Mehdi Nemmouche, who perpetrated the May 2014 attack on the Jewish Museum of Brussels in which four people were killed. During Nemmouche’s trial in February 2019, witnesses testified that as an ISIS fighter, he held them hostage and tortured them in Syria in 2013, after which he traveled to Belgium. Brussels is a breeding ground for Islamic extremism, with many high-profile lone wolf and wider scale attacks occurring there in recent years. Most noteworthy among these are the 2016 Brussels bombings in which 32 people were murdered. It was the deadliest attack in the history of Belgium.73
Spain has been the target of numerous Islamic attacks by groups wishing to reconquer “al-Andalus,” the historical Arabic name for the Iberian mainland, which was under the control of the Islamic Caliphate until the late 15th century. These attacks include the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed over 190 people and injured some 2,000 others, making it the deadliest terror attack in the history of Europe.74 In the years following the bombings, Spanish authorities have arrested over 470 Islamist militants, and a further 177 suspected terrorists were arrested in 2015-2016 alone.75 Radicalization is also a problem in Spain. The 2004 bombings and the 2017 Barcelona attacks were carried out primarily by Moroccan nationals who were radicalized while living in Spain.76 According to a 2017 study conducted by the West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, 90 percent of those detained in Spain for Islamist-terror related activities between 2013 and 2016 were radicalized inside Spain.77
France has been the target of numerous deadly attacks in recent years, such as the March 2018 Carcassonne attack, the July 2016 Bastille Day attack in Nice, the November 2015 ISIS attacks in Paris, and the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks. Since 2015, more than 240 people have been murdered by terrorists aligned with ISIS. This led President Emmanuel Macron to declare counterterrorism as his most important foreign policy goal.78 Terrorism in France tends to sprout mainly from homegrown terrorists.79 This has prompted the French intelligence services to place 18,000 potentially violent radicals under surveillance. The number of Muslim converts in France by 2013 stood at 100,000, double what it was in 1986. Some Muslim organizations in the country place the number at 200,000.80
In Sweden, the security service stated that the greatest terror threat in the country stems from Islamic extremism. However, Islamists in the country are more likely to facilitate terror abroad via recruitment, finance, and travel assistance than carrying out domestic attacks.81
In the Netherlands, the AIVD stated that Islamic extremism has morphed from being almost nonexistent to a “widespread one with several hundred supporters and thousands of sympathizers.” The number of jihadist websites increased exponentially, and social media outlets are utilized for recruitment and organization. Moreover, radical Islamists and Salafists have been targeting higher numbers of Muslim asylum seekers since the onset of the current migration wave.82
In Austria, Vienna is well known as a hub for European Jihadists, and as of October 2015, 70 Austrian citizens returned to the country after serving as foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. Homegrown radicalization is also a problem. For example, Bosnian-Austrian terrorist Mirsad Omerovic is responsible for raising funds for ISIS and inspiring 166 youth to fight in Syria. In 2014, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism warned, “Religiously motivated extremism and terrorism, above all of Islamic character… present a great potential threat [to Austria].”83
Europe faces a significant problem. On the one hand, it is commendably taking in large numbers of asylum seekers for the sake of human rights, so many that the demographics of Europe are shifting. On the other hand, while the majority of these asylum seekers are simply looking for a better life in Europe free from persecution and radical extremism, a small minority of them are sent to Europe for the sole purpose of radicalizing the local Muslim population and committing terror attacks against the West.
Moreover, while the Muslim Brotherhood presents an image of a moderate Islamic movement that conducts charity work and community outreach, in reality, it is a movement run by realistic radicals who are committed to changing the world order as soon as possible and forming a worldwide Caliphate. The Brotherhood does not oppose terror in certain situations as a tool for achieving this goal; it provides deep-seeded support for Hamas; and it expresses anti-Semitic rhetoric. They pose a real security threat to Europe. They radicalize native European Muslims, whose numbers are growing rapidly, and they radicalize some of the moderate pragmatists who fled to Europe to escape radicalism, only to find themselves arriving into a society where radicalism already exists. European countries, therefore, must acclimate these refugees efficiently enough, so they are not attracted to the da’wah structures, which offer them financial and welfare assistance. The European governments should also perform proper due diligence as to whom they choose to partner.
Lastly, consider the results of 1 million refugees entering Europe. Now consider what would happen if highly populated countries like Egypt were to fall, and tens of millions of refugees would flock to Europe. The consequences would be disastrous. This radicalism needs to be confronted, and its roots must be pulled from the ground before it entangles anyone else.
Arrivals to Greece, Italy, and Spain by month
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- Goldberg, Jeffrey. “The Obama Doctrine.” The Atlantic 317, no. 3 (2016): 70-90.
- Rosen, Ehud. “Mapping the Organizational Sources of the Global Delegitimization Campaign against Israel in the UK.” Jerusalem Center Public Affairs, 2011, https://www.jcpa.org/text/Mapping_Delegitimization.pdf
- Eikmeier, Dale C. Qutbism: an ideology of Islamic-Fascism. ARMY WAR COLL CARLISLE BARRACKS PA, 2007.
- Rosen, “Mapping the Organizational Sources,” 2011.
- Fishman, Shammai. Fiqh al-Aqalliyyat: a legal theory for Muslim minorities. Hudson Institute, 2006.
- Steven Merley, The Global Anti-Aggression Campaign 2003-2016 A Global Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi and Jihadi alliance against the West, 2017. https://www.globalmbresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Global_Anti-Aggression_Campaign_2003-2016.pdf
- MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series – No. 794 (6 October 6 2004), http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP79404
- Ehud Rosen, Are the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas Mobilizing to Take Over the PLO?, 26 March 2018. https://jcpa.org/article/are-the-muslim-Brotherhood-and-hamas-mobilizing-to-take-over-the-plo/
- Jenkins, John, and Charles Farr. “Muslim Brotherhood Review: Main Findings.” London: Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet Office, Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Home Office. Accessed January 27 (2015): 2016.
- Merley, Steve. “The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.” Nefa Foundation, 2008.
- See: Ehud Rosen, The Spider Web: The Roots of BDS and the Campaign to Delegitimize Israel, JCPA, 2018. https://jcpa.org/the-spiders-web/chapter-i-delegitimization-in-germany/islamist-organizations/
- https://amp.ksta.de/koeln/islamkonferenz-radikale-islamisten-nahmen-an-ditib-konferenz-in-koeln-teil-31834048 ; https://www.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article186767692/Ditib-Kritik-an-geheimer-Konferenz-mit-radikalen-Muslimen.html
- Adam Taylor, A neighborhood accused of terrorist ties has become a victim of terrorism, 19 June 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/a-neighborhood-accused-of-terror-ties-has-become-a-victim-of-terrorism/2017/06/19/d2a5558c-54f9-11e7-840b-512026319da7_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3021efe42e46
- David Brown, Hamas leader quits Finsbury Park mosque board after watchdog inquiry, 11 January 2019. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dc9be4a2-150f-11e9-8239-c0a124428b01
- Simon Wiesenthal Center, “The True Face of the UOIF: Antisemitism, Advocacy and Financing
- of Terrorism, and the Call to Jihad,” http://www.wiesenthal.com/atf/cf/ percent7BDFD2AAC1-2ADE-428A-9263-35234229D8D8 percent7D/trueUOIF.pdf
- See speech at an Islamic Relief event, Torino: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxWCxE-8Ssw&index=12&t=0s&list=PLCfAGNC61c_zkYKm1wZcutuyGvgocqrEm
- An English translation of the report is available on: https://clarionproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/Muslim-Brotherhood-Sweden-Magnus-Norrell.pdf
- https://extremism.gwu.edu/sites/g/files/zaxdzs2191/f/MB percent20in percent20Austria- percent20Print.pdf
- Robin Simcox, “The Asylum-Terror Nexus: How Europe Should Respond”, Heritage Foundation, June 18, 2018, https://www.heritage.org/terrorism/report/the-asylum-terror-nexus-how-europe-should-respond