Ethno-religious conflict in Europe: Radicalisation in Europe’s Muslim communities

"The truly remarkable failings of the Western economic model now on display" may "give a renewed boost to Islamic radicalisation," writes Michael Emerson, senior research fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

"Tensions and violence involving people from minority groups of Muslim culture are perhaps the greatest source of societal tensions and violent conflict in contemporary Europe," Emerson asserts, introducing studies based on Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Russia and the United Kingdom and prepared by fourteen authors.

Societal tensions typically stem from two main sources, the studies find:
Social and economic disadvantage and discrimination affecting Muslim groups, and;
Terrorist violence inspired by radical ideas.

Communities in all six countries have been affected to some extent by the growing influence of radical Islam in recent decades, intensified by the aftershocks of the 9/11 terror attacks in the US, recalls Emerson.

Indeed, five of the six countries studied have experienced their own iconic events, the analyst explains, all of which had massive media and political impacts. Terrorist acts took place in three of them (11 March 2004 in Madrid, 7 July 2005 in London and 1 September 2004 in Russia). In the Netherlands, there were the successive assassinations of Pim Fortuyn on 6 May 2002 and Theo Van Gogh on 2 November 2004, while France saw suburban riots in late 2005, the paper recalls.

"While the acts of terror are highly individualised, societal tensions between the Muslim communities and the majority populations are highly diffuse," write Emerson. The "ethnic aspect" was "conspicuous" in recent collective violence in northern English cities and Parisian suburbs, he recalls.

The paper distinguishes between three broad categories of tension and violence:

Politico-religious radicalisation, where inspiration is grounded in Islamic texts or interpretations that can range from the scholarly to "simplistic fantasies";
Religious but non-political movements: These are fundamentalist in theology and doctrine, but abstain from politics or societal integration, and;
Radicalisation of attitudes and behaviour, leading to collective violence. Such unrest largely concerns spontaneous movements, and grievances may include housing, employment prospects or perceptions of discrimination.

"The decade of the 2000s was undisputedly the decade of global terrorism," concludes Emerson, sounding a pessimistic note for the future.