After Brussels – defeating terrorism without being terrorized

Terrorism has arrived in Europe, not as a temporary phenomenon, but rather as a cultural phenomenon that is here to stay. It can happen any time, any place.

There are certain differences between this current wave of terror and carnage, and previous incidents, like in the 1970’s: the current actions are framed mostly in Islamist and cultural terms, rather than in a political language. The actions are not state sponsored. The perpetrators are not (only) the poorest and most marginalized. Some of this terrorism is homegrown. And there is zero space for negotiating with the jihadists.

Now the obvious question is how to react. Apparently, there are two road posts that may provide orientation, but they (at least partly) collide with each other. The first principle is to not give way to terror and blackmailing – not an inch. Liberal and pluralist societies will continue with their lifestyles, without anticipating self-censorship or unacceptable compromises. And two, the perpetrators have to be found and punished relentlessly.

Yes, there are problems here. Searching for terrorists may sometimes put some civil liberties in danger. Defending and developing open societies may also offer spaces for talking, proselytizing and committing terrorist acts.

How can our societies solve this contradiction?

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  1. Noah Toly 2 years ago

    Global cities must respond to the two-pronged threat of jihadism by focusing simultaneously on security and inclusion. After Al Qaeda attacks on New York City, London, and Madrid, many cities developed new security institutions and infrastructure. More cities must now leverage those developments to assume a leading role in global security and counter-terrorism. But efforts must also address some root causes of radicalization. Global cities must systematically seek to integrate, and not marginalize, diverse religious populations. Policies that promote religious liberty, political enfranchisement, social inclusion, and economic progress for all residents will be essential to mitigating the risks of terrorism. A flourishing religious pluralism in global cities will be as important as security in the future struggle against global jihadism.

    More on this can be found here:

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  2. Andrey Makarychev 2 years ago

    Anders Breivik shaking hands with judges during the trial is an epitome of the controversy that lies within European societies themselves. Many of them understand liberalism as a universal ethics of openness and respect for everybody’s rights – from terrorists (Breivik) to illegal migrants. Very often judicial issues (related to the formal status of migrants) are superseded by moral appeals. In terms of security this simply doesn’t work, which means that anti-terror policies should be decoupled from debates on liberal norms and values.

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  3. Alexei Voskressenski 2 years ago

    We are witnessing deliberate planned measures by jihadists to terrify a civil population, to change lifestyles, even policies and economics. I believe that in these conditions open societies have the right for a preemptive defence. We know that Israel for a considerable time is using a successful preemptive anti-terrorist strategy when an arrest of a terrorist at the place of a future terrorist act is considered a failure. According to this strategy the terrorist must be arrested at the moment he tried to conceive and organize a terrorist attack. This does not necessarily have to reduce civil liberties, but this does mean a change of strategy and tactics for anti-terrorist activities. It is also clear that this may and maybe must change many stereotypes in international politics and international relations.

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  4. Justas Paleckis 2 years ago

    Lives of ordinary people and of many states are truly changed by the threat of the political terrorism of fanatical Islam. One can try to preserve civil liberties, but the reality of life forces us to limit them and in the future they will be more restricted. A man in the street is feeling willy-nilly and will be feeling even more the inconveniences of the new epoch while preparing to fly or drive, going to a stadium, disco or any gathering place. European and other continents’ countries will start to resemble to present-day Israel. Harsh control and constraints there have become a daily routine but democracy and an open society is still functioning. However I would forecast that if terrorist threat will not be supressed, many countries will have to live in “Israel raised to square or cube” and civil freedoms will be restricted. This by the way in some degree is already happening in Hungary, Poland and other countries where terrorism has not showed yet.
    It is possible to defeat terrorism with united efforts by all the main players on the international arena. It is also important to undermine the social roots of terrorism. In 1970 the UN adopted a resolution urging the developed countries to allocate the 0.7 percent of GDP for the developing ones. Only Nordic countries are doing so. Others give only half or one-third of the provided funds, or even less. The gap between rich and poor people and countries is growing gravely annually, which is good news for terrorists.

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  1. Hakim Khatib 2 years ago

    Here we go again. Recent terrorist attacks against another European capital city in less than a year continue to shake the core of world politics. It is worth to note that terrorist attacks are not only happening against European states, but also against other countries, most notably Turkey and Indonesia. Is it a clash of cultures, religions, or it is merely politics? How do we keep serving Daesh (Islamic State)?

    What to Expect
    The blasts are expected to generate an international response to express grief and disproval of violence and terrorism, similar to the responses which followed the sickening tragic events against Charlie Hebdo in January 2015, and to the terrorist attacks in Paris in recent months.

    It is also anticipated to hear condemnation and calls for solidarity against terrorism by a spectrum of Muslim dignitaries in and outside Europe and by world political leaders, including Arab ones.

    Although some of the victims of the attacks at Brussels airport and the Metro station might be Muslims, this doesn’t change the fact that Daesh-affiliated madmen call themselves Muslims as well. This is going to be one of the leading arguments for the far-right populists in Europe, who are more likely to shift the debate towards issues of failed integration, a clash of cultures, threats against European “Christian” values, the Islamisation of Europe etc. In other words, it is expected to witness a culturalisation of the discourses surrounding the crisis of terrorism in Europe and the world over.
    It is also more likely that, in order to enforce security, western states will increase their military response against Islamic State, as if it were the sole reason behind these assaults. In short, rifts in European societies due to mutual alienation and victimisation, increase of security measures, rise of far-right voices and the continuation of old, yet unsuccessful solutions of military power to combat terrorism are going to be the main guiding lines over the next few weeks, and probably months. Daesh is baiting the whole world with its random attacks, and it seems to be working.

    Culturalisation of Discourses Serves the Bait
    Culturalisation of discourse means to constantly look for evidence and explanations in the culture of the penetrators. Culturalisation dominates public debate on such issues, although most recent terrorist attacks in Europe were committed by individuals born and brought up in the West.

    When culturalisation of discourse is too broad to hold, religion, which is more often used interchangeably with culture, comes into play. Again discourses around Brussels attacks become islamised to address issues of Islamism, integration, conflicting values etc. However, the role of culture and religion cannot be marginalised, but also cannot be excessively emphasised when analysing political, economic and military power relations.

    In theory, increasing people’s tendency to make inferences about others’ disposition, traits and characteristics on the basis of what has been observed of their actions correlates with the escalation of contentious practices. In other words, through observing the behaviour of out-group members, we tend to draw hasty conclusions about others’ characteristics and to find explanations of why they behave the way they do. Yet, this is a “perceptual error” and not sophisticated enough to produce a satisfying explanation.

    In practice, perceptual errors lead us to develop discourses based on people’s tendency to explain behaviour of in-group members by looking at causes in the environment and context, but for the out-group members in their traits themselves.

    The Culturalisation of discourse, accompanied with a lack of proper knowledge, opens a space for building up generalisation and stereotyping patterns against the collective other.

    “Instead of looking at ethno-national cultures and religions as identity difference-lines, there is an urgent need to understand them as politically embedded and historically changeable phenomena,” explains Kira Kosnick, a professor at the institute of sociology at the Goethe University of Frankfurt.

    Controversy of Denial
    Injustice, corruption and chaos in the world offer a perfect environment for producing terrorism. However, fighting terrorism starts when western and Muslim-majority countries acknowledge the fact that the problem mainly lies in religious and political governance. Every time such a criminal action happens, Muslim individuals become the first victims not only in the western world but also across the region of West Asia and North Africa such as in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. But why is it a controversy of denial and why does it serve Daesh?

    On one level of denial, some Islamic clerics incite violence, and then the same clerics condemn those who carry out violent acts. On a second level of denial, Arab political leaders support freedom of speech defying terrorism and extremism in the West but they choose to do otherwise in their own countries. On a third level of denial, western countries base their relationship with states in the region of West Asia and North Africa on security, stability and economic calculations, turning a blind eye to all the violations and atrocities perpetrated by their authoritarian allies. On a forth level of denial, while the West has an unclear position concerning protracted conflicts in the heart of the Muslim majority countries, it has built strong ties with states known to export extremism and sectarianism such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    This controversy emerges when actors are unable or unwilling to improve people’s lives in the region. Consequently, extremist groups find a fertile environment for recruitment in these structures.

    Solutions in the Age of Daesh
    Solutions to reform Islamic thinking necessitate the willingness of political as well as religious leaderships to stop instrumentalising religion whenever it deems convenient.

    The problem is not that some terrorists joined or learned from Daesh but rather why they were inclined to join and support Daesh, or Al-Qaeda in the first place. Radicalisation is a process that takes several years to crystallise. There is hardly evidence that people become radicalised because of a three-month visit to Daesh. But evidence suggests that many of those who join Daesh are already prepared to embrace, learn and instate such an extremist ideology.

    The newcomers to Daesh or any other terrorist organisation are more likely to have developed their radical views in their home countries. It could be at schools, home, religious books, Islamic interpretations or religious sessions. Therefore, the reasons behind a violence incitement could well be in the books held most sacred by Muslims.

    We all know that attacks such as the ones in Brussels and else where in the world are not going to break the states in questions. Yet, there are consequences to these attacks. They mainly sharpen the rifts between Muslims and non-Muslims in western societies, although an overwhelming majority of Muslims in the West might be willing to engage in serious cooperation to eliminate any risks to their home countries.

    Increasing alienation helps Daesh to recruit the most marginalised and distressed individuals. Against this background, Daesh offers them the illusion of being a part of a greater project in the name of god.

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  2. Stephen 2 years ago

    Europe seems to be vulnerable in face of terrorism. This issue, which can not be underestimated, reflects a mismatch between European policy and third worlds’ need.

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  3. worldklaus 2 years ago

    I would not use the term Jihadist in regard to the recent terrorist attacks, my interpretation of the Koran would imply war against foreign oppression. For the Mujahideen’s in Afghanistan I may use the term Jihadists as they fought against a foreign power which in their view did not allow them to observe the Koran. Random killing in foreign territory, which caused also Muslim victims has nothing to do with Islam and this people are terrorists, nothing else.

    The invasion of Iraq and the US throne strikes in general, and in Pakistan in particular, with countless civil casualties are the fuel for the next generation of religious terrorists. I do not agree with the assessment that Israel’s preemptive strategy has proven successful, just the contrary as it leads to more violence; this conflict can not be solved militarily.

    Two things have to happen: First we have to focus on security and especially the European countries have to cooperate more closely. There has to be a European wide/International cooperation and coordinated counter-terrorist activities. This may reduce civil liberty to some extent, but this is the price we have to pay, as this terrorist attack will threaten us for a long time.

    Secondly the local Moslim population, has to be involved and engaged. Especially in metropolitan areas there are strong networks of Islamic faith based communities. There has
    to be an effort of us all to engage and to reach out to the Muslim community and we have to emphasis that security is a common goal. A security concept which does not closely integrate local Muslim population will not work.

    Close international counter terrorism cooperation and an actively involved, engaged and integrated Muslim population is the best way to minimize the risks.

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  4. AW 2 years ago

    I guess, that the German notion of “Streitbare Demokratie” (self-defending democracy) is what can best describe and at the same time bridge the gap between the need to defend ourselves and stand up to our libiral values.
    i guess one of the key issues here is that European security services have to become harsher or radical Muslim preachers. There are not many of them, but those in place can cause collateral damage. It is also about time to address the issue of general leftist antisemistism: the coalition of Western left intellectuals and Islamists condemns Israel for everything it does simply ignoring the fact, that IDF and Mossad protect European security as well. I also strongly believe in a closer and more efficient cooperation between security services within Europe.
    A beacon, which we all should now stick to is the secular nature of our state. There are things, that could be compromised on and there are those, which are not an issue to debate.

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  5. Chanpisey Ung 2 years ago

    Terrorism is threatening security, lives and values; yet making responses that constitute a military/offensive strategy or that infringe civil liberties would cause far greater harm than the jihadists do. Military strategies can be problematic and counterproductive sometimes. Killing terrorists who have social ties could cultivate more insurgents. Many airstrikes have been conducted by the U.S-led coalition, but did it stop terrorism? No, it did not. It did not even slow them. Yet there only saw incidental deaths of innocent people as a consequence. However, civil liberties should not be a compromise for security, as they are equally important. Stripping people of their civil rights only weakens our values, and reflects a certain degree of fear, thus constituting a (slight) success of the terrorist group. Additionally, even with the restrictions on those rights in place, terrorists could still attack soft targets.
    But one should bear in mind that people are not terrorists by nature. They go through each stage of the radicalization process before becoming ones. Therefore, to my belief, political strategy would better cope with terrorism and address its root causes. In 2014, Saudi Arabia, one of the largest Jihadist producers, started terrorist rehabilitation programs “Munasaha”, aiming to de-radicalize those terrorists and re-integrate them into the society. The outcome is that, of the approximately 1400 program participants who have renounced terrorism through this program and who have been released, only 35 have been rearrested on security offenses (Cline, n.d.). This proves that the rehabilitation programs or mechanisms of the like are somehow effective, yet there’re still possible issues with them. Even with those who have changed, is this change long-lasting? How long do they monitor? And the effectiveness and reliability of the monitoring process? I do believe such mechanisms would provide higher chances of success to sympathizers and junior personnel than to the more seasoned terrorists. Despite those shortcomings, political strategy is more effective in the long run than offensive strategy, especially with strong cooperation within the international community to improve measures, such as strengthening security at soft targets and combating the financing and recruitment of terrorist groups.

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  6. Suzan Khasawneh 9 months ago

    It is difficult to control the behavior of the open communities, but it is possible to develop societies in the face of terrorism by peaceful ways, by understanding the reasons leading to terrorism and how to reduce it, because solving those is difficult and, most importantly, reducing the gap between Europe and the third world.
    The lack of understanding of open or developed societies in world countries is one of the most important causes of terrorist events and is the point to focus on.

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