Guest article: “Europe’s response to radicalisation: the need for a shared commitment”

On 6 September 2016, I had the opportunity to attend to quite a controversial conference-debate called  “L’Europe face à la ‘radicalisation’ : de la nécessité d’un engagement commun” (Europe’s response to radicalisation: the need for a shared commitment) organised in the Catholic University of Louvain (Brussels, Belgium) by the think tank European Muslim Network (EMN). Among the panellists were Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University and Director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) (Doha, Qatar), Philippe Moureaux, Mayor of the Belgian commune of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean, and François Burgat, political scientist and Director Emeritus for research at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). The debate turned out to be quite technical and set out the speakers’ points of view concerning the possible causes of radicalisation.

According to François Burgat, post-colonialist reflexes of Western countries, prompt to carry out military campaigns in Arab countries, tend to incite young people of immigrant origin to radically throw themselves into the defence of what they consider to be their “threatened religious and communal identity”. He says that the animosity that motivates the Muslim aggressors of the West fits into the outcome of an open political divide that follows on from the deep colonial wound that has never completely healed. Within the European Muslim communities, he adds, this feeling has been exacerbated by shortfalls and patent failures of the aphorism “living together”, leading to what he calls “fast-track globalisation of resentment”.

In Moureaux’s point of view, social inequalities have become the breeding-ground for radicalisation. Indeed, large sectors of the Muslim population living among western societies are currently facing alienation and xenophobia, which can sometimes lead them to violent actions of responsive and political nature. In order to substantiate his claim, he took the example of the city he used to govern for 20 years, the quite infamous Molenbeek-Saint-Jean that has gained a reputation for being a safe haven for jihadists in relation to the support shown by some residents towards the bombers who carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks.

As for Tariq Ramadan, it rather has to do with a complex set of psychological, social, economic, religious and political factors that have combined to sink some young people into radicalism. “Might I add in passing that terrorism has claimed two victims: Muslims themselves, whose reputation has been damaged, and pluralism”, he adds before criticising the vacuity of the debate about Islam that is on the rise since the cover-all Muslim swimsuits (burkinis) scandal has begun. According to him, the political class must develop a very clear religious message and create venues for dialogue and political contestation in order to avoid some errors and mistaken attitudes of international policies. Otherwise, the resentment both Mr Moureaux and Mr Burgat were talking about will keep on getting worse and provoking radicalisation among youngest generations.

The full extent of this conference will be soon available on EMN’s Facebook page.

Article written by Céline Jeangout