After the Paris massacre, is the warmongering of certain European leaders justified? Is it right to seek revenge or will this fan the flames of radicalism?
The reality is that many young Muslims have already turned their backs on Western values and are now actively terrorising that lifestyle — often successfully! In contrast to 9/11 in the US, Western European governments have cancelled many large-scale festivities and occasions. Fear is in the hearts of Parisians, Londoners, Bruxellois, and many more across the continent.
Rather than living in fear while seeking revenge, would it not be wiser to try to understand the causes of fanaticism, and to acknowledge the precarious position of many second generation immigrants in Western countries? These immigrants register (on average) low school achievement, substantial drug use, high crime rates, high youth unemployment and clear discrimination on the labour market. These are a dangerous cocktail for any society and a breeding ground for radical behaviour.
But the situation is clearly not that simple. The Molenbeek fanatics and Daesh executioner John Emwazi were not the worst off in terms of the chances they got in Western societies. Emwazi grew up in a well-to-do family and graduated from college. One link between many “Muslim radicals” is that they actually grow up in two worlds: an authoritarian home environment surrounded by a more permissive school and social environment. In this context, home means: “observe father’s rule and cherish the family’s (Muslim) honour”, while school means “everything is feasible as long as you get away with it”.
Perhaps this conflict in value signals, or cognitive dissonance, makes some youngsters more impressionable. It seems to make them more susceptible to a life of petty crime and drugs, and then to a moment of clarity with respect to their identity and self-worth. In earlier days, many young Muslims found solace in drug use on the fringes of society; now many find shared meaning on a “diet of hate” drawn from the Iraq War, the atrocities of Abu Graib, of Guantánamo Bay, and the continued oppression of the Palestinians. The aerial bombardment of Syria, with all its potential for more “collateral damage” — i.e., dead women and children — will be another rallying cry for these consumers, producers and recruiters of violence.
Western youngsters from non-Western backgrounds (which happened to be Muslim backgrounds) could finally find an identity as being oppressed by Western values and Western lifestyles. They used to be torn between two worlds and found a relief in a new identity, which even provided a passport to eternal happiness in paradise if they would be killed or kill themselves in the fight against Western values and the Western lifestyle. This is the reality and it is frightening to realise that it will continue to happen.
The disorientation of non-Western youngsters between the authoritarian home and the permissive school and society continues. The only response to the terror of Paris is to bridge the gap between the Muslim home and the school and society. It requires more effort from Western citizens to reach out; and equally it requires an active engagement of “enlightened” Muslims in Western countries. The latter in particular can help devout Muslims to understand and overcome the dissonance between their cultural backgrounds and social realities. In turn, this can help them affirm the choice they have made in becoming citizens of Western countries, taking pride in their “new” values and lifestyle.
Flickr / M.Rehan