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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Lack of social integration leads to home-grown radicalisation, analysts say

European countries and Muslims themselves have to take action to better integrate to avoid further home-grown terror attacks, they say

Analysts are not surprised by findings of a study that showed the majority of western terrorists were home-grown, pointing to the lack of social integration of Muslim migrants in Europe.

Although not the only factor, they say a lack of integration constitutes a major cause for terrorist attacks being carried out in the west.

The study by the Institute for International Studies in Italy showed that 73 per cent of successful terror attacks in Europe and the US were committed by citizens of the country where they took place.

“These figures will surprise many because, unfortunately, it is a powerful perception in many western societies that refugees and asylum seekers especially bring crime, disorder and extremist tendencies when they arrive, forgetting the positive contributions such immigrants can make over the years if they are provided a chance to rebuild their lives,” said Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “The vast majority of terrorist attacks take place because there seems to be a growing number of fringe elements within western societies that have been left as weak links for extremist narratives to indoctrinate.”

He said right-wing political narratives have gathered momentum across the west.

“Unfortunately, poor economic management over the years have led to lower real incomes, fewer jobs and poorer welfare services, but higher taxation and austerity,” he said.

Read more: Merkel’s immigration policy under attack in wake of Berlin assault

“As a result, immigration has become a key focus for many political debates, rightly or wrongly. Unfortunately, anti-immigrant rhetoric at large combines with anti-Islam sentiments to create a dangerous result – but immigration has actually led to net economic gains for most countries, and Islam and Muslims have suffered tremendously from violent extremists in both Muslim-majority countries and in western societies, where they face a backlash and are unfairly seen as terrorist sympathisers.”

Mr Khan said until communities can build better intercultural understanding and become better informed about global issues, it would be difficult to build tolerance or prevent racist and stereotype-inspired views about others.

“Introducing someone to a foreign country to carry out an attack from outside is a very complicated and difficult job,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, head of security and terrorism at the Gulf Research Centre. “His papers could be examined thoroughly, he could be questioned on the border, his movement won’t be easy, his geographical knowledge of the country won’t be that good and there is a language barrier too. You always go to people who are inside the country.

"You have fourth generation Muslims in Belgium and Paris that are not newcomers and the reason is social integration because they don’t feel they belong to that society.”

He said social integration needed to be tackled as the motivation is revenge for an environment they believe they have been rejected from, producing generations of young people unable to integrate.

“FBI statistics show a similar pattern,” said Dr Albadr Al Shateri, politics professor at the National Defence College. “From 1980 to 2005, 94 per cent of terrorist attacks were carried out by non-Muslims in the US. In fact, terrorist suspects are likely to be non-Muslim by order of nine times. To see the same numbers in Europe is quite expected.”

He said the reasons for labelling Muslims as terrorists or as generally engaging in political violence were several. “Islamophobia accounts for a lot of this mischaracterisation,” he said. “Ignorance is another factor in spreading the stereotype and many groups in the west have immense interest in creating misinformation about Muslims for political ends.”

He said perceptions would not change unless Muslim communities organised themselves in western countries, with the backing of Muslim-majority countries. “It is not healthy for any society to hold such negative and one-sided views on any community. Jews of Europe were victims of the stereotype of yore and the results were not good for Jews or those who held these negative views.”