Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Extremism in Europe BY Ms. Sabahat Ali  


The recent London terror attack on Sat June 2, killed at least eleven people including 3 perpetrators and injured 58 others on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market.Three knifemen were shot dead by police after mowing down pedestrians on the bridge and going on a killing spree at pubs and restaurants at 10pm. The perpetrators Khurram Butt,  RachidRedouane and Youssef Zaghbawere all young, radicalised Muslims either born or had spent a considerable time of their life in Western Europe.

There is a long history of extremism and terrorism in Europe. This has often been linked to nationalist and separatist movements, while other acts have been related to political extremism (including anarchism, far-right and far-left extremism) or religious extremism.There is an overlap between terrorism and various other forms of armed conflict and violent action, including civil wars or non-international armed conflicts. This is the case with several significant non-international conflicts in Europe, where there thus can be dispute as to what counts as terrorism: examples include the Irish War of Independence (1919–21), the breakup of Yugoslavia and subsequent conflicts,the First (1994-6) and Second Chechen Wars (1999-2009), and the War of Dagestan (1999).

Terrorism within the European Communities since 1951 has often been linked to separatist movements, notably the Chechen separatism in Russia, the Irish Republican Army within the United Kingdom, and Euskadi Ta Askatasuna within Spain. Since 2001, there has been an increase in attacks linked to extremist Islamist groups. It remains the case that the majority of deaths from terrorism do not occur in the “West”. From 1990, an average of a little under 50 people died each year. Worldwide, over 100,000 people (more than 13,000 in Pakistan only) were killed in terror attacks in between 2001 and 2014, with only 420 of these deaths occurring in Western Europe. However, this figure has begun to increase again from 2011, with the attacks by far-right extremist Anders Breivik in Norway, and Islamist extremist attacks in France in 2015 and 2016.  Europol break these down into five categories: jihadist terrorism (previously termed “religiously-inspired terrorism”); ethno-nationalist and separatist terrorismleft-wing and anarchist terrorismright-wing terrorism; and single-issue terrorism.

Threat of Islamic Extremism to Europe is on the Rise. Europol says the number of people killed in attacks by extremists throughout Europe is increasing and warns that ISIS may “put more emphasis on operations abroad” as Western military alliance puts it under pressure in Syria and Iraq. The Europol has painted a worrying picture of an EU assailed by Islamic extremist threats that are unlikely to recede any time soon. It warned that Syrian asylum-seekers could be targeted and swiftly radicalized by ISIS recruiters while a new generation of fighters is being raised in ISIS territory in Syria and Iraq.ISIS appears to favour attacks against soft targets because they “instil more fear in the general public.”

While there is no concrete evidence of foreign fighters systematically sneaking into Europe among the huge flow of refugees, there is a “real and imminent danger” that members of the Sunni Muslim refugee community will “become vulnerable to radicalization once in Europe, and be specifically targeted by Islamist extremist recruiters.” Extremists are increasingly adept at using the internet and social media to spread propaganda, raise funds, potentially carry out cyber  attacks and finance their operations by soliciting donations in closed forums and websites and even exploiting crow funding sites.

Extremism is on the rise in Europe just as in the rest of the world.  And though religious fundamentalism, especially Islamic, seems to be the real danger to the people , Populist Extremist Parties (PEPs) present one of the most pressing challenges to European democracies. Contrary to popular perception influenced by the acts of  terrorism and  media hype, the religious extremism is affecting more adversely in an indirect way by strengthening the Far Right ideology which is getting its roots deep into the European politics and is going to have long term effects on the peace and the ever widening gap between the different faiths.

Parties such as the Front National in France, Sweden Democrats and Austrian Freedom Party continue to rally large and durable levels of support, even among some of the most economically secure and highly educated regions of Europe. But their appeal and the profile of their supporters remain poorly understood. The rise of these parties is often traced to public anxiety over threats to jobs, social housing and the welfare state. Instead, this new report provides convincing evidence that mainstream political parties need to go beyond making the economic case for immigration and begin making the case for cultural diversity.

PEPs have spent much of the past two decades exchanging strategies and ideas. This has enabled them to respond more innovatively and effectively than the mainstream parties. Until the mainstream parties begin to exchange lessons and address the actual anxieties of PEP voters – specifically over the cultural impact of immigration and rising diversity – populist extremists will continue to attract significant support, and could find a new generation of citizens increasingly receptive to their message. Supporters of PEPs are heavily concentrated among the lower middle classes and skilled or unskilled working class men, citizens who lack formal qualifications and are economically insecure. Their concerns about immigration and cultural diversity do not stem simply from economic grievances over jobs and social housing; they appear to stem from a belief that immigration, minority groups and diversity are threatening national culture.