Large numbers of dropout youths are yearning for recognition and respect. Many find instant gratification with ISIS-like terrorist franchises, if even for a short-lived moment. "Better to die a martyr’s death on the battlefield" than to succumb anonymously and forgotten in a suburban slum apartment in one of Europe’s cities. Many second generation Muslim immigrants failed to integrate, remained poorly educated and unemployed for about 40%. Europe’s welfare systems unlinked the right to consume from the obligation to produce, so, all are fed, clothed and have a roof over their head, but pride and self-esteem were never part of the provided welfare package. Muslim youths' future remains bleak; recognition in western merit-based societies remains ultimately linked to production, from which they find themselves excluded.
The process to join radical terror franchises happens gradually. Once youth drops out of school, a tiresome and often lengthy path of trial and error ensues. At times, some legitimacy is obtained as unlicensed operators in the gray economy, or in petty crime and even organized crime. Escapism through drug addiction, rape, and domestic violence become a way of life. Instant recognition and power, offered by one promise or another by underground terrorist organizations, become more and more attractive. Once the decision to join is made, participants are instantly compromised to the extent that return becomes impossible.
The immense and, by some accounts, disproportionate public outcries over the Paris attacks on Friday, 13 November, all call for revenge by the elimination of ISIS and similar terrorist organizations, by military force. Whether this will happen, or not, is to be seen.
Muslim jihadist radicalism has surfaced in one form or another for over 1,200 years. Our history presents a long range of bloody jihadists. To mention as few. Hassan-i Sabbāh (1050s-1124) a Nizārī Ismā‘īlī, who built the ultimate terrorist-assassin training center in a mountain fortress, called Alamut. The Mahdi of Sudan (about 1880), known for his extreme bloodthirstiness and tens of thousands of beheadings. El Qaeda in Afghanistan, Al Nusra in Syria, Boko Haram in the Sokoto Caliphate of Nigeria, and El Shabaab in Somalia have become household names synonymous with ruthless brutality.
Eliminating one jihadist brand or another may resolve a vehicle used by the disenfranchised but the problem of the millions of young men and women in Europe, seeking recognition and a meaning in their lives, remains.
Somewhat desperate efforts by moderate Muslim groups, distancing themselves from terror by declaring that terror is “not Islamic,” are not very convincing and will not have much impact on the social crisis either. From the perspective of the dropouts, especially the wealthy Muslim communities formed arrogant, closed elites, live in grand splendor and excluded them from any participation and recognition. No matter what the official pretense may be, Islam is by no means an all-inclusive, open door religion. Every shade of Islam remains an intolerant totalitarian dictate in the hands op powerful small exclusive elites.
The United States faced and faces similar problems with urban terrorism after the Oklahoma bombing of 1995, which killed 170 and maimed hundreds. Recent random school shootings also seem to originate from disenfranchised youth, who commit their atrocities under esoteric pretenses. They have in common with Islamic terrorism in Europe that culprits are always dropouts, disenfranchised male youth, desperately seeking some form of recognition.
The solution to the crisis appears simple but certainly will not come overnight. The society has to become more inclusive to all, and especially, to all the thousands we exclude today. Dropouts should not be allowed.
"No Child Left Behind, Act of 2001 (NCLB)" became part of the political agenda in the USA, and is today in mainstream practice. Only after a long time, we will be able to judge the efficacy.
If we cannot restore pride and human dignity for all, we will always have to live with terror.
By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Opinion columnist for Curaçao Chronicle