It is primarily a home-grown problem
There was something missing from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Weekend Essay for UnHerd, something that left me feeling ambivalent. On the one hand, I applaud Ms. Ali’s courage and determination to face the injustices resulting from an antiquated and dogmatic Islam at the detriment of her personal safety. And I agree with her on the dire need to uproot Muslim extremism from the West.
On the other hand, I disagree with the implicit conclusion that closing borders to Muslim immigrants would solve the problem, as it has become entrenched in Western countries. Her conviction in the incongruence of Islam, Muslims and the West is apparent throughout the essay, which is coupled with a sense of foreboding about large numbers of young Muslim men trying to cross European borders:
Hirsi Ali notes how difficult it is to discern who is worthy of being given the coveted refugee status, which again implies the difficulties in letting these Muslim men through.
To be clear, my disagreement with Ms. Ali doesn’t arise from any sentimentality because I’m a Muslim woman who lives in Egypt. Rather, it is from what I believe is a flawed analysis of the theo-political landscape where new Muslim immigrants are offered as scapegoats on the altar of the counter-extremism.
Ms. Ali warns that in allowing Muslim immigrants to Europe, the continent is effectively opening its borders to an extremist ideology that jeopardises secular states to redeem itself from the woes of its colonial past. The imminent danger is exemplified in the UK by grooming gangs, and across Europe by ISIS-inspired terror attacks. You could add more cases: Shamima Begum, the murder of Samuel Paty, Charlie Hebdo; the list is long and I could go on.
But take a closer look and try to find what links the perpetrators of all these incidents had beyond the fact that they are all Muslims and that the incidents took place in Europe. The striking feature is the fact that all those individuals are second and third generation immigrants, European nationals who have little to no connections to their families’ countries of origin. Those people weren’t fleeing from a war-torn country, risking their lives and their children’s lives on a boat trip that could capsize off the coast of Libya, in search of a better future. They were born, bred and radicalised inside European cities.
According to a World Bank report there were 720 European fighters who joined ISIS. The danger of extremist ideology isn’t merely located beyond the border, it emanates from the heart of Europe. As Arab Muslim countries like Egypt, UAE and even Saudi Arabia are taking rigorous steps to combat extremist ideology and terrorism, Europe is shackled by its inability to address a culture that enables and reinforces Islamic extremism through its silent complicity.
To address the problem, the true culprit must be identified because influential writers like Ms. Ali who can impact public policy should clearly articulate the problem or else it will lead to another round of the Misunderstanding Game she describes.