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Europe's Jihadist Dilemma


Various conditions have facilitated Europe's rise as a 'hub' of global jihad, especially the presence of a nucleus of foreign Islamist activists, a large pool of potential recruits, and the freedom to operate with few, if any, restrictions. The Iraq war has prompted a revival of the jihadist network in Europe. In response, European policymakers need legal reforms, increased institutional cooperation and sustained efforts to engage with European Muslim communities. The threat is both urgent and profound, and it will be necessary to embark on considered long-term strategies which may require European leaders to re-examine some of the tacit arrangements that have allowed European societies to enjoy an unparalleled degree of domestic freedom, peace and prosperity.

Following the bombings and attempted bombings in London in July 2005, many were quick to condemn the British authorities' tolerance of Islamist extremists. ‘Londonistan’ became a popular byword for the near impunity with which terrorists had been allowed to set up camp in the capital. American newspapers referred to Britain as a ‘crossroads for would-be terrorists’, and Pakistan's president asserted that Britain, rather than Pakistan, had become the world's breeding ground for the next generation of Osama bin Ladens. But this criticism ignored the extent to which Islamist terrorism has become a pan-European phenomenon. For many years, the activities of Islamist extremists in ‘Londonistan’ have been matched by those in ‘Milanistari’, ‘Hamburgistan’ or ‘Madridistan’. Although London was home to some of its most prominent figures, the network has spread across the entire continent. As one expert noted, ‘every single attack carried out or attempted by al Qaeda has [had] some link to Europe, even prior to 9/11’.

Indeed, there is broad agreement among scholars and analysts that Europe has evolved into a nerve centre for the global jihad, and that it is here that future attacks against Western interests are most likely to be planned and executed. Yet, beyond anecdotal evidence, there continues to be little sense of what makes the jihadist networks in Europe tick.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

Neumann, Peter R. 2006. "Europe's Jihadist Challenge." Survival 48 (July): 71-84. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00396330600765518?src=recsys

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