On Tuesday, terrorists killed at least 34 people in attacks on the Belgian capital of Brussels and responsibility was claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
According to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ISIL or ISIS once had 31,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria. From these, some 5,000 were believed to be young people of immigrant descent from European Union countries. Belgium, in its counterterrorism measures like other European Union countries, has also made it difficult for the terrorists to move in and outside the country easily. It seems, that young people of immigrant descent which were previously fleeing to Iraq and Syria to join ISIL, have now started targeting their countries of residence because of these strict measures. So in a way the strategy of not letting these immigrants join ISIL is counterproductive and a dilemma. Because, if they join ISIL in Iraq and Syria they will become more powerful to defeat there and if they couldn’t join, they’ll carry attacks like these. This carnage poses a serious question; that what led to these attacks?
On a philosophical level, there are two things which have made these attacks possible. One is Europe’s inability to integrate Muslim immigrants and other is ‘Globalized Islam’.
After World War II when there was a shortage of labor in the European market, Muslim countries provided manual labor to Europe through agreements which gave birth to the establishment of the Muslim communities in Europe. These immigrants neither abandoned their homelands nor integrated into European society completely. Ultimately these immigrants and their following generations faced social exclusion and hindrance in accessing better education and better employment opportunities.
There is a gap between the Muslim youth of immigrant descent and European society as well as between the Muslim community and their youth. These youth when faces problems in integration and understanding cultural and social differences need to talk to the representative of the Muslim communities that is their local Imam, but in many cases these Imams who are obtained from different Muslim countries, lack an understanding and interest in Western society and necessary knowledge of its history. When young Muslims consult them on everyday problems such participating in Jihad, drinking alcohol, partying, or having a girlfriend, they can’t guide them because of the language barrier and their own confusions.
Europe’s failure to integrate immigrants forces Muslim youth, which might have different skin color, Islamic names, and backgrounds, to grow up with a non-European and non-Western identity. In this state of identity crisis, translocality pushes them to adopt a transnational identity. And a proof to this is ISIL varied complexion. Studies have shown that ISIL fighters vary in terms of origin, class, culture and education.
Social exclusion segregates European Muslim youth of immigrant descent from European societies and globalized Islam, which has become deterritorialized and deculturalized, segregates them from Muslim societies of their ancestors. They face an identity crisis in European societies because of Europe’s inability to integrate them, and they face an identity crisis in their ancestors’ Muslim societies because of globalized Islam which distorts their familial, cultural and national identity. This leaves them in search for a new identity. Because dissociation from both emigrated and immigrated societies makes it hard for them to live in a state of permanent identity crisis.
The author is an independent researcher and political analyst. He has authored On Kashmir and Terrorism and can be reached at @imrankhushaal and firstname.lastname@example.org