Paris, ISIS, and the Externalization of Evil
Only a few days have passed since the terrorist bloodbath in Paris, but it is already clear that the conclusions France and the West have drawn from the carnage are not only wrong, but likely to guarantee more of the same. In short, they seem to believe that the terrorist acts of Nov. 13 were organized and carried out by ISIS and, therefore, destroying ISIS will prevent future terror and should become the priority. This is a dangerous delusion even if ISIS is proven to have been instrumental in the organization of the attacks, which is not the case to date. Destroying ISIS, as desirable as that is by itself, will do nothing to reverse the frightening radicalization that has taken place in the burgeoning Muslim communities in Western Europe and increasingly in the United States. A radicalization that promises more mayhem for years to come, yet one that Western authorities refuse to fess up to let alone take decisive measures against.
That blaming ISIS is a classical case of the ‘externalization of evil’ psychological syndrome is not difficult to prove. Less than a year before the Paris events, in the Charlie Hebdo massacre, experts and pundits alike pointed to Al Qaeda and no one mentioned ISIS. Indeed, the audio claiming ISIS involvement was made by the French Islamist, Fabien Clain, who was sentenced to five years in jail in 2009 for recruiting jihadists for the Middle East at a time when nobody had heard of ISIS. It is a fact that virtually all of the conspirators identified so far, as well as the thousands who flocked to jihad in Syria and Iraq, were born, raised and radicalized in Europe before ISIS existed. This is the disturbing reality that Western leaders refuse to admit that will continue to exist regardless of whether ISIS does or does not.
And a very troubling reality it is. There are currently 751 Muslim ghettoes in France officially if euphemistically designated as “sensitive urban zones” (ZUS) and another 1400 called “priority neighborhoods” (cartiers prioritaire). What they all have in common is high levels of criminality and dependence on welfare and, most importantly, the fact that they increasingly resemble parallel Muslim societies outside the writ of French law, or as many French call them “territories lost to the Republic.” Such enclaves now exist throughout Western Europe and are similarly radicalized. Three of the Paris murderers, for instance, lived in Molenbeek, the huge Brussels Muslim ghetto that, according to the public admission of Belgian minister of the interior, Jan Jambon, is no longer under the control of the government.
How did it come to that and exactly how bad is it?
To start with the latter, a 2004 study by the French ministry of education conducted in public schools near the Muslim ghettoes and known as the ‘Rapport Obin,’ painted the following picture: Muslim enforcers, known in the schools as “big brothers,” impose conformity with Islamist norms by physical violence and intimidation. Muslim girls must follow a strict dress code which prohibits makeup, skirts and dresses, and any co-educational activities, along with going to the gym, the swimming pool, or the theater. Students are further enjoined from studying Voltaire or reading Madam Bovary or taking geometry because they may accidentally draw the sign of the cross. English is to be avoided as the language of imperialism. Jewish students, the report admits, can no longer be guaranteed a proper education in these schools, because of rampant anti-Semitism. These practices, concluded the study, were transforming the schools into religious counter-societies with “norms on a collision course with those of modern, democratic society.”
And the results of this collision course are not difficult to see today. Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre last January, the French government deployed 7000 military to guard Jewish institutions and businesses from Islamist thugs, thereby admitting that the police in a major Western country are no longer capable of guaranteeing law and order.
The answer to the question of how the Muslim diaspora communities in the West were radicalized is fairly straight forward. Beginning with the oil embargo in 1973, Saudi Arabia began receiving windfall profits from the skyrocketing prices of oil. By 1980, its oil income had grown nearly hundredfold compared to 1970. Flush with money, it started exporting its radical Wahhabi creed with the help of the Muslim Brotherhood and numerous Saudi-controlled Islamist organizations like the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), the Al Haramain Foundation and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). By its own admission, Riyadh had spent the colossal sum of $80 billion in promoting Wahhabism, and, as it turned out later, terrorism in the West by the year 2002. What this largesse accomplished was truly impressive. According to official Saudi sources, it had established 210 Islamic centers, 1500 mosques, 202 colleges, and 2000 Islamic schools, all dedicated to spreading the poisonous Wahhabi creed in the West.
France was an early focus of the Saudis. As early as 1981, Riyadh provided money for the construction of 19 French mosques, according to the Muslim World League Journal of August 1981, followed by financing for “maintenance and renovation” of 300 mosques in March of 1982. By 1983, the Saudi/Muslim Brotherhood alliance had founded the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UIOF), a radical Islamist organization comprising 200 Muslim associations, which continues to dominate French Islam to this day. Domestically, UIOF works closely with the Hamas financier, Palestinian Charitable and Relief Committee (CBSP) and the imam-training European Institute of Human Sciences (EIHS), while internationally it follows the writ of the radical European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) led by the suicide-bombing endorsing Sheikh Yusuf al- Qaradawi.
Given this legacy, it is hardly surprising that a 2014 opinion survey sponsored by Newsweek found that 16% of French Muslims approve of ISIS, a percentage that jumps to 27% in the age group 18 to 24years.
Yet another complicating factor in the efforts of the French and other European authorities in confronting the radicals is the reality that Muslims in several Western European countries have reached critical electoral mass and can no longer be disregarded politically. This is especially the case with the European Left, which is the traditional beneficiary of the Muslim vote. In France, for instance, François Hollande won the presidential election by 1.2 million votes, but only because the roughly 2 million Muslim voters chose him over Sarakozy by a 93% margin. Undoubtedly aware of that, Hollande curried favor with the Muslims by promising them to change the constitution to allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections.
So what is to be done? The first thing to do is for the West to get rid of its wishful thinking that its systemic problem with radical Islam could somehow be solved with a deus-ex-machina like defeat of ISIS. Then we need to take a long, hard look at the sources of radicalization of Muslim communities in the West, both ideological and financial. At the very least, statutes must be introduced that prohibit foreign financing of Western Muslims, as Austria recently did. Prohibiting jihadist propaganda, as Germany did last year, should similarly be a matter of course. Though helpful, none of these measures are likely to help much, however, as long as we refuse to confront the ideology of Islamism head on, instead of appeasing it with facile mantras about Islam being a religion of peace. It is a hard fact that radical Islam as preached and practiced in Muslim communities worldwide today is a religion of murder and mayhem that cannot and should not be tolerated. At the bottom of this and a common denominator for all Islamists is sharia. Far from being God’s sacred law, as Islamists would have us believe, sharia is a post-Quranic, man-made doctrine designed to justify Arab imperialism a century and a half after Muhammad. It preaches violence, hate and discrimination against non-Muslims and women. It is not about religion but about sedition and, as such, has no place in civilized society.
Alex Alexiev is a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC) in Wash. D.C.