As in India, the maintenance of social peace requires strict controls on free expressionby Anatol Lieven / March 22, 2006 / Leave a comment
The Bush administration is, for once, correct when it says that Europe needs to be much more serious about combating terrorism. Europe is in much more danger than the US. Its vulnerability is vastly increased by the presence of large and disaffected Muslim minorities. The decision of several European countries to support US actions in the middle east inevitably makes them targets. In fact, there is a good chance that the US and Israel will eventually plunge into conflict with much of the Muslim world, and that Europe will serve as one of the chief battlefields.
Equally, fear and suspicion of Muslim minorities among European majorities means that terrorism in Europe has the potential to cause a chauvinist backlash that could endanger pluralist democracy in the long term. If the spread of technology leads to greatly increased terrorist slaughter, such a backlash may be inevitable.
Declining birth rates in most European states, coupled with high Muslim birth rates and continued immigration, mean that the Muslim share of the European population is bound to grow steeply over the next few decades—to a quarter or more of some nations. And as citizens, Muslims will have the same right to make their collective voices heard as any other big group in western democracies. This development would have been a severe challenge to European democracy even without the addition of Islamist terrorism.
Getting serious about terrorism requires a toughening across Europe of the laws concerning both the planning and justification of terrorism, and the incitement of religious and ethnic hatred. This means the swifter imprisonment of figures like Abu Hamza, and ending the legal protections such as those that allowed the acquittal of known members of al Qaeda in Germany, or led to a ten-year delay in extraditing Rashid Ramda from Britain to France. Stronger measures against illegal immigration, especially from North Africa, are also necessary.
However, taking the threat of terrorism and communal strife seriously also requires the prosecution of those European publications which, in future, commit offences like printing insulting cartoons of the Prophet. There is also a strong case for the revival and implementation of blasphemy laws across Europe and their explicit extension to cover not just Christianity but all the major religions.
If these cartoons prove the last straw that leads only a few more European Muslims to join terrorist groups and carry out successful terrorist attacks, then not…