The problem of radicalization and assimilation in Europe

VALERIA GIANOTTA
Published 25.12.2018 04:49
Updated 25.12.2018 08:00

This month, terrorism hit the heart of Europe once again. A second-generation young French man who perpetrated an attack in the French capital became the newest symbol of failed integration. Cherif C., the 29-year-old attacker, is of Moroccan descent and was labeled by French security as an individual who had been at risk of "radicalization," just like those in the Charlie Hebdo incident.

Indeed, such attackers resemble a lone wolf radicalized in the suburbs of the main cities in the country. According to some, it is the radicalization of Islam, but it is actually something different – a deeper rooted issue in the country's policies. It is true that religious extremism is used by some as a tool to easily organize an act of terrorism, but what the whole of Europe is facing today is a failure in migration policies.

In addition, although today is defined as a time when Daesh seems to be territorially defeated both in Iraq and Syria, the Daesh threat is still haunting Europe as a domestic enemy.

As a matter of fact, the Daesh threat is the outcome of a misleading interpretation of multiculturalism and of the destabilizing subcultures that have been working, hidden for years in European societies, in particular in France, where the urban suburbs have been in turmoil for a while.

Certainly, France's attempt to assimilate immigrants, in particular the ones from its former colonies, were successful in the post-war period but nowadays, in the wake of the second and third generations who rejected the dominant cultural model, the assimilation policy seems to have failed.

With the last Strasbourg attack, Europe has woken up again to a terrorism nightmare; a feeling that was left behind in the recent past.

This time the target was the Christmas market of the symbolic city of Europe on the eve of the plenary of the European Parliament.

And it might not be a coincidence that this happened during the current nationwide emergency passing through France, namely the "yellow vest" protests.

However, it is not only that. Europe is experiencing a crisis that has manifested itself with London's Brexit negotiations and in Rome for the approval of the budget law. French President Emmanuel Macron by surrendering to the yellow vests has admitted that "the rage is right" and that he will spend 20 billion euros to satisfy the protestors.

Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, British Prime Minister Theresa May postponed the vote on Brexit, and in Belgium the Charles Michel government broke up over the signature of the Global Compacts on Immigration and lost the ministers of the neo-Flemish N-Va Nationalist Alliance, paving the way for new elections that, as in many other European countries, will all revolve around the immigration card. All of this is happening while Germany, in the post-Merkel era, has started with the related problem of political legacies and is in need of strong leadership.

Those are all signs of deep social tension that involves Europe as a whole and therefore has to be faced by the European institutions, especially in light of the next continental elections.

In other words, Europe seems to experience serious internal problems that pile up on each other, and it may open the way to a new European identity.

The current events signal a dividing line between the old vision of Europe's founding fathers, based on integration and subsidiarity principles, and a new trend.

In some states and circles, there is already a wind blowing toward Islamophobia and xenophobia.

This will probably be further fed by the anger and fear of common people conveyed by nationalist and populist rhetoric and eventually, it will generate a greater paradox. Indeed, "radicalization" takes place where there is marginalization and not real integration. Negation, segregation and exclusion will not eradicate or discourage radicalism; on the contrary, it will offer several other reasons for it to increase.

* Assistant professor at University of Turkish Aeronautical Association, Ankara

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