LONDON, March 22, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The September 11 attacks, the Madrid and London bombings, as well as terror strikes in Jordan, Iraq, and countless other spots around the globe show that the war on terror will not be easy.
And it will not be won, experts say, without engaging the world's peaceful Muslim majority.
Peter Neumann, director of the Center for Defense Studies at London's International Political Institute, says a good place for Europeans to start is in their home countries.
"I think it is necessary for Western countries to engage and work with their Muslim communities much more than they have done in the past," he says. "I think that the London bombings last year were a perfect example, because the people who were responsible, were actually born in Britain; they grew up in Britain; they were British citizens."
Neumann explains that with the Muslim population in Europe now totaling some 20 million, the same is true not just for Britain, but for the whole of Europe.
Other observers agree. Lord Rees-Mogg, former editor in chief of "The Times," says the war on terror is a war in which the responsible governments of the world have a straightforward security job, in which they are trying to stop terrorists achieving their objectives. But he adds that there is also another dimension.
"But also, very obviously, I think the war on terror requires establishing, where one can, an open relationship with Muslims," Rees-Mogg says. "I think that is true, because it's a war for the hearts and minds of the Islamic community amongst other things."
A Range Of Muslim Concerns
How to achieve this crucial aim? Experts broadly agree that political, religious, and community leaders have an important role to play, particularly with young people. They must encourage them to be part of the mainstream community, to identify with the countries where they live, especially if they form large minorities there, such as in France, Britain, Germany, or Spain.
But governments must also listen to the concerns and grievances of the Muslim communities, and help improve their circumstances, say Muslim organizations.
"We believe there are a range of concerns British Muslims have," Muslim Council of Britain spokesman Inayat Bunglawala says. "Not just with Iraq, not just to do with the antiterror measures, but also to do with religious discrimination, with moral issues such as abortion and euthanasia, with social exclusion and underachievement."
Bunglawala says ways to bring Muslims into the mainstream of British life include better education, more sensitive policing, more Muslim members in parliament, and effective measures against social deprivation.
Tackling social deprivation is a major problem, because Muslim immigrants in European countries have tended to concentrate in large ghettos in inner cities. This has made the work of extremist organizations and terrorist recruiters much easier.
"I think that the homegrown terrorism has certainly been accelerated by the growing ghettoification," says Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. "Not just in Britain, but all across Europe. And it's very easy for the recruiters and for those who are manipulating an individual to taking that final step. To find willing recruits that are socially excluded and then marginalized in the society."
Ranstorp adds that the radicalization and recruitment process in these ghettos is of a great concern to the European Union. The task is how to strategically prevent the next Muslim generation from joining up to radical jihadist ideology.
Backlash Against Terrorism
Many experts say the peaceful Muslim majority has to play its part, too. "A lot of it has to be done by Muslim communities themselves," Center for Defense Studies Director Neumann says. "They have to address the extremists within their own communities. There is a limit to what we can do."
Neumann concludes that he has been encouraged by positive response from many Muslim leaders, as well as by the growing backlash within Muslim communities against the terrorists.
Many Muslim leaders now actively promote interfaith and multiethnic programs that foster better understanding and eliminate the separation barrier between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. They say, however, they still need more help to stand up to terrorism and its ideologues.
"We need all the other communities, faith and of no faith, to join hands with us," says Imam Ibrahim Mogra, who is chairman of the Mosque and Community Committee at the Muslim Council of Britain. "This is not a Muslim problem; this is a society problem. We need to take this evil out of our society, and if we can all join hands collectively, I am sure we will enjoy more success."
And Mogra concludes that against such joint effort the forces of hatred and terror cannot prevail.
Islam In A Pluralistic World
A Muslim woman (left) watches a Christian procession in Madrid in March (AFP)
READCONFERENCE ON ISLAM: A major international conference on Islam concluded in Vienna in November 2005 with strong appeals from prominent Muslim leaders to recognize international terrorism as simply "terrorism." Political figures from Islamic countries, including the presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan, argued that it should never be labeled "Islamic" or "Muslim" terrorism because Islam is based on peace, dialogue, and tolerance. "Salaam" -- meaning "peace" -- was the key word of the three-day conference, titled "ISLAM IN A PLURALISTIC WORLD."
Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai used the word in their remarks to emphasize the peaceful nature of Islam. Other speakers quoted passages from the Koran to the effect that all men and women, regardless of faith, are creatures of God and should live in peace with each other without discrimination...(more)
LISTENListen to Afghan President HAMID KARZAI's complete address to the Vienna conference (in English):
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LISTENListen to UN special envoy LAKHDAR BRAHIMI's complete address to the Vienna conference (in English):
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