On the 12th October, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation Middle East and Islam Fund held a seminar entitled "The Patterns of Radicalization in the Contemporary Europe and the Middle East", inviting as a speaker Dr. Farhad Khosrokhavar from School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales). Professor Khosrokhavar visited Japan under the auspices of the Japan-France Society (Maison Franco-Japonaise) and the Sasakawa Japan-France Foundation (Fondation Franco-Japonaise Sasakawa). Please look below for the summery of the seminar.
1.Muslim Radicalization in Western Europe from the Comparative Perspectives with North America
One striking aspect is that there has been fewer people in North America than in Europe, who have gotten radicalized and taken part in jihad. While those who have radicalized in America amount to 215 and in Europe the numbers are as follows: France, around 1.500; Germany, around 900; the UK, at least around 800. Thus, those countries together make up for a half of the Europeans who went to Syria.
The discussion among scholars often attributes these differences to foreign policy of each country, saying that aggressive foreign policy correlates to the number of jihadist. But this hypothesis contradicts the cases of Germany and North America. Although America has one of the most aggressive foreign policies toward Islamic-Arab world through the eyes of Arabs, the number of jihadist from the United States is by far lower than that of Europe. Also, though Germany is not intervening in the war with Islamic State directly like France and Great Britain and just gathering some information, the country still has many jihadists. Therefore, the issue of foreign policy is important but cannot explain everything.
The more plausible reason for the difference seems to be the social status of the Muslim community in each region. Whereas most of the Muslim populations in European countries belong to the lower class, in the United States Muslims often belong to the middle class or even the upper-middle class. The socio-economic status of Muslims in Europe is almost equivalent to that of Latin American workers in North America.
In Europe, on the other hand, there is a growing number of Muslim communities. In some countries, Islam has become the second largest religion. The Muslims came to Europe as immigrants over different periods of time. For example, in France, Germany, Great Britain and Poland, Muslims came in 1950s, 1960s and 1970s as non-skilled workers. They form the second, third, or fourth generations, who would eventually become, as stated below, radicalized.
2.Comparing the Patterns for Radicalization――Western Europe and the Middle East
2-1. Different Social Origin
The major difference between Western Europe and the Middle East in terms of radicalization is social origin. Statistics show, in the Middle East, people who get involved in jihad are not from the lower class but from the middle class with the educational background in the science field such as chemistry, physics, mathematics or engineering.
On the contrary, in Europe, most of the jihadists are from the lower class and belong to the first, second or the third Muslim generations. They have little educational backgrounds and often drop out of schools. Among them the proportion of unemployment, delinquency, and imprisonment is high. Sometimes they feel that they are rejected from the society. In fact, the major terrorist attacks that happened in Britain in 2015, Paris in 2005, and Barcelona in 2015 were said to be those by the second or third generation Muslim migrant.
2-2. Feeling of Humiliation
■Three Failures in the Middle East: Nationalism, Democratization, Over-expectations towards Western Europe
The social origin of jihadist of Europe and the Middle East is different, but they share the feeling of humiliation. The humiliation in the Arab world is structured by firstly corrupt and authoritarian government. Also the Muslim youth in the Middle East feel frustrated because even though they have high academic degrees, they are not offered good job opportunities.
This feeling of humiliation is historically related to three failures in the Arab world. The first failure is Arab nationalism. It was initiated by Nasel, but he lost six-day war with Israel in 1967. After that, Sadat came to power while Islamic radicalism began to grow and it eventually assassinated him. Islamic radicalism grew in the Middle East as a consequence of the failure of Arab nationalism in part.
The other failure is Arab revolutions. In some cases, the revolution led to the regime that turned out to be worse than the previous regime. During the first several years of Arab revolutions, jihadism temporarily toned down. However, people lost their hope for the revolution after 2013. In other cases the revolutions ended up civil wars, as in Syria, Yemen and Libya leaving those countries in a catastrophe. Or it led to the third alternative, what is called "cosmetic reform", which was the case of Morocco.
When it comes to various problems caused by the rising new types of regional powers, there is a feeling of rejection from the West. Nowadays, we are witnessing two major regional powers in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both are authoritarian in a different manner. This new regional power confrontation between Sunni- Saudi Arabia and Shia- Iran, led to many of the current problems. Among them, the conflict in Yemen, which witnessed a huge humanitarian crisis that includes spreading infectious diseases such as cholera, where Saudi Arabia is bombing and young people are killed. In Syria, there is also a tragedy forced by powers: Iran and Russia are on one side and the United States, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are on the other side. This confrontation delayed the process of ceasefire and peace talks.
■Integration of Immigrants in Europe: Denied Identity
The failure of integration forms the backbone of the feeling of humiliation. There are three types for an economic integration. The first type is the integration to become the member of the middle class. The second type is a partial integration, which means the workers can find jobs but lower level jobs. This bears the feeling of being despised and rejected. And the third type is the integration of those who consider themselves completely excluded from the society with no hope for the future. This is particularly clear when it comes to Moroccans. The jihadist attempts in Spain in 2004 and 2017 were caused by non-Arab Moroccans, who were mostly from northern region of Morocco which is habituated by Amazighs: Berbers. The Berbers were persecuted in the 1960s because they were considered as unruly. They hold multiple types of denied identities: neither Moroccan, nor Belgium, nor Spanish, nor French, nor Arab. Radicalism syntheses the new identity that overcomes these divided identities.