On Friday, Belgium police captured Salah Abdeslam, a key conspirator and member of the Islamist gang that murdered so many innocents in Paris last November. Belgium PM Charles Michel is triumphant: “This evening is a huge success in the battle against terrorism.” Monsieur Michel’s bombast is typical of Western leaders – they revel in their “victories” and never think about why so many young Muslims, born in Europe, are turning to violent extremism.
Not one of the EU nations has, to date, taken on Saudi Arabia, the promulgator of hardline Islam and zealous intolerance. Saudi Arabia went into Belgium in the late sixties and spread Wahhabism among the newly arrived Muslim migrants. To date, $70bn has been spent on this global brainwashing and destabilisation programme. This Tuesday evening on ITV, a secretly filmed documentary investigates the nefarious kingdom. Will this exposure alter Europe’s special relationship with the most evil of empires? No.
Here is a dire warning: Europe is losing the battle against terrorism because its leaders still indulge the sponsors of terrorism, unthinkingly aid and abet the propagandists of Isis and germinate animosity and rancour in a new generation of Muslims. EU governments never say sorry, never let complexities divert them from their macho missions, seem incapable of thinking holistically, do not engage with history or the hinterlands, undercut democratic values, can only react to events as they happen and thereby endanger the lives of millions of citizens.
The police and special forces expect multiple terror attacks in London. Other cities are preparing for new blasts. These crimes are indefensible. And no, I am not saying that the West deserves these bloodbaths or is wholly to blame for them. Repulsive Islamists and their ideologies are hell-bent on annihilating modernity and cumulated human cultures. But I do believe that European politicians have, over many decades, created the conditions for fanaticism to seed and grow. The abysmal official responses to the refugee flows are leading to new anti-Western furies.
Here is a friend of mine, a Muslim woman, who works in the City and lives in a grand home: “I was born here, have done well. My faith is private and I have no time for fundis ( fundamentalists). But I am shocked. How can Cameron, my Prime Minister, treat refugees like they are cockroaches? Those children? Would he do this if they were white people from Zimbabwe? I now understand how a young Muslim turns and loads up on hate. My own son is so full of anger.” Me too. The media and our leaders – except for Mrs Merkel – demonise refugees and fill up on self-pity. The migration crisis is all about us. Sickening.
Now Turkey – where the government daily violates human rights – is paid billions to take the migrant problem out of Europe. Men, women and children from Africa and Arabia have become traded meat. And all the while, our politicians wax lyrical about Europe’s values and “higher” civilisation. Can you not see how this dissonance affects those with links to those places? And humane indigenous citizens too?
I recently met a young, wannabe jihadi. Salim (not his real name) is 19 and very bright. His mum wrote and requested me to meet him. He went on and on about being a despised Muslim, about Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Syrian refugees. He wants to join the caliphate because he feels he has no future in England. He was like a tethered animal wanting to break free of the life he knew.
His mum now has cancer and he has sobered up. However, his views on these misguided wars are not treacherous and are widely shared. (The police will not get these names out of me. Many readers write to me privately and I cannot break that trust.)
The European crusaders who attacked Iraq and Libya and play hidden war games in Syria have never accepted responsibility for the churn, chaos, rage and violence that they left in their wake. Western sanctions and bombs wiped out more people in Iraq than Saddam ever did. Read Patrick Coburn’s new book, Chaos & Caliphate, which chronicles these historical catastrophes. For Salim and his ilk, these killer facts fuse with their own life stories of confusion and rejection and the amalgam combusts.
Abdeslam was kept safe and hidden by those who live in Molenbeek, an overcrowded Muslim ghetto stuffed with no-hopers. Some inhabitants describe the place as Europe’s biggest jihadist factories. Why should this be so? Because the very air is thick with disillusionment and breathed in by all those who live there.
In the Sixties, Belgium welcomed cheap factory labour from Morocco and other Arab lands. The old industries died and families were marooned with no jobs, low skills and a sense of failure. They believe successive governments used and then discarded them. Francoise Schepmans, the mayor of Molenbeek, has now come out and spoken about the “culture of denial”, which now must be broken. Belgium needs to address its racism and neglect of Muslims who are in its national bloodstream. So too France, Germany, Spain, Britain, Denmark and so on.
Our political elites need to be honest, savvy and ethical. They must refrain from impetuous militarism and reach out to estranged Muslims. Remember, the West beat communism using political and economic seduction. Weapons, oppressive laws and racist discourse will not defeat Islamist terrorism. Soft, smart power just might.