Terrorism, Islam, and Immigration

Whenever a new terrorist attack is reported, I’m reminded of that LifeLock commercial about a bank robbery. After a group of masked robbers smash into the bank, the uniformed officer on duty explains to frightened customers that he’s not a security guard, only a security monitor. He notifies people if there’s a robbery, but he doesn’t do anything to stop it.

Over in Europe, people are beginning to understand that their local and federal governments aren’t going to do anything about the terrorist problem. Oh, sure, the authorities will investigate the latest attack, identify the perpetrator, and, if they’re lucky, break up the cell to which he belonged. But on the most basic level, nothing changes, nothing is ever done.

What are the basics that are being ignored?

Well, in the first place, it would be helpful to recognize that these acts of terror are committed by Muslims, not by Methodists or Mormons. Moreover, the higher the concentration of Muslims in a given society, the more likely that terrorist attacks will occur. In Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic which have strict immigration laws and few Muslims, there have been no major terror attacks. In Germany, Belgium, France, and England, which have liberal immigration laws and large Muslim populations, terror attacks have become an almost weekly occurrence.

One of the primary ways to prevent terrorist attacks is to put a halt to Muslim immigration or else to curtail it sharply. But Europe’s governing class is committed to open borders. They’re also committed to the narrative that all cultures are created equal. So if Muslims are acting up, it can’t, by their reckoning, have anything to do with Islamic culture; it must be because of racial hatred or intolerance on the part of the natives. Like the security monitor in the LifeLock commercial, European authorities witness the invasion of their territory, but they don’t do anything to stop it. Indeed, many deny that terrorism has any connection to immigration.

It can be objected here that Salman Abedi, the Manchester bomber, was not an immigrant. In fact, that objection has already been offered as proof that Muslim immigration has nothing to do with terrorism. But Abedi’s parents were immigrants from Libya, and the part of Manchester they lived in has been described as the world’s largest Libyan enclave outside Africa. The culture in which Abedi grew up was arguably more Libyan than British. Which brings us back to the all-cultures-are-equal fantasy. Libya is a violent place. So are Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Chechnya. What’s the common element that unites these diverse places? Would it be “Islamophobic” to say that Islam is the common element?

Well, yes, it would. At least, the authorities will call it “Islamophobia.” And since they want to avoid any appearance of Islamophobia on their own part, they avoid making any connection between Islam and violence. As a result, they won’t take the steps that would help to prevent terror assaults like the one in Manchester. What might those include? Answer: surveilling mosques, madrassas, and Muslim student associations, deporting radical imams, shutting down radical mosques and schools, closing sharia courts, closing radical Islamist political organizations, banning foreign funding of mosques, stopping the radicalization of Muslims in the prison system, preventing the return of foreign fighters from places like Syria and Libya, and—the big one—calling a halt to Muslim immigration.

Why aren’t these steps being taken? Because to take them would suggest that there is a problem with Islam. As Mohammed Ullah, Muslim chaplain at University of Manchester, said after first condemning the bombing, “But let’s also be clear about this—why do we then have to stand up and say: ‘we apologise’? It’s not my fault. It’s not the fault of the religion.”

But that’s the question, isn’t it? Is there something about this particular religion that predisposes people to commit violence against unbelievers and against fellow Muslims who don’t adhere to the right brand of Islam? The terrorists themselves say there is. They leave videos and letters for posterity proclaiming their love of Allah and their desire to do his will. Terrorist organizations such as ISIS publish lengthy statements detailing the scriptural justification for their actions.

You can say that they misunderstand their religion, but that argument is hard to buy when you consider that about a half-dozen major terrorist leaders have Ph.D.s either in Islamic Studies or Islamic Jurisprudence. That would include Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from the University of Baghdad.

How about Salman Abedi, the 22-year-old who committed the atrocity in Manchester? Surely, he couldn’t have understood much about Islam. That, at least, is the opinion of Olivier Roy, one of France’s “top experts” on Islamic terrorism. Roy has a theory that the majority of jihadists have scant knowledge of Islam. Thus, “with little if any understanding of religion or Islamic culture, young people like Abedi turn to terrorism out of a ‘suicidal instinct.’”

Which sounds like a neat theory until you dig a bit and find that Abedi was a hafiz—that is, a person who has committed the entire Koran to memory. Moreover, he attended mosque regularly and was described as very devout. His father was also devout, and, when he wasn’t fighting for the rebels in Libya, worked as a muezzin (the man who chants the call to prayer) at the Didsbury Mosque which his son also attended.

Along with other “authorities,” Mr. Roy is committed to the theory that terrorists must be unfamiliar with the peaceful teachings of Islam. But the short life of Salman Abedi refutes the theory. So does a recent German study based on interviews with 45,000 respondents. According to Nicolai Sennels, a Danish psychologist:

The many interviews showed that Islam is distinguished by being the only religion that makes people more prone to violence the more religious one becomes.

“It’s not the fault of the religion,” says the Muslim chaplain at the University of Manchester, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Many ordinary people are undoubtedly coming to the conclusion that there is something wrong with the religion founded by Muhammad. And, being common people with common sense, they realize that not much will be done to solve the problem of Islamic violence until the authorities acknowledge that it is indeed Islamic violence.

Tonight they have one more reason to make the connection between Islam and violence that the authorities won’t make. As I write this, reports are coming in of terror attacks on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market. On London Bridge, a van plowed at high speed into pedestrians, and several assailants then got out and began stabbing patrons at nearby bars and restaurants. At last count, six had been killed and many more wounded. It is reported that the men shouted “this is for Allah” as they commenced their knife attack.

How do you prevent incidents like this? How do you stop Islamic terror attacks on London Bridge, Westminster Bridge, a Manchester concert arena, a Paris concert hall, a Paris publishing house, a boulevard in Nice, a Christmas market in Berlin, a mall in Munich, a Brussels airport, a Brussels subway station, a Copenhagen cafe, and a shopping area in Stockholm? Do you put up concrete barricades around every square and every bridge and every major thoroughfare of every major city? Do you station troops throughout every major metropolitan area? What if the terrorists then move their operations to smaller cities and towns? Do you guard every theater, every school, every church and synagogue? And when the terrorists attack theatergoers on the way out of the theater or churchgoers on their way home from church, do you move the security perimeter further out by a couple of blocks? Do you extend airport security to the airport parking lots? To the entrance drives? To the numerous shuttle buses traveling in and out? Or, as Mark Steyn has suggested, are you better off to establish a very secure perimeter at the borders of your country?

There’s a lesson to be learned here, but for Europeans the lesson comes late in the game. Once the Muslim population of a country grows beyond a certain point, it becomes very difficult to control the terror problem. Yes, of course, not every Muslim is a terrorist. But it’s become something like a mathematical certainty that a certain percentage are. Thus, as the Muslim population grows, so does the number of terrorists and potential terrorists. You can belatedly close the borders, but if you wait too long the damage will already have been done. It’s not a matter of closing the barn door after the horses have escaped, but of closing it after the war horses and Trojan horses have gotten inside.

It’s a different matter for the U.S. In America it’s not too late to tighten up the borders, to curtail Muslim immigration, and to develop sophisticated vetting procedures. It’s not too late to put Muslim communities on notice that they need to do more to purge the terrorists from their midst, and to eliminate from their culture those elements that foster radicalization. None of this will happen, of course, without a radical change of mind—a realization that we are not just fighting ISIS or lone wolves, but that we are also engaged in a do-or-die culture war with people who are determined, either by violence or by stealth, to replace our culture with theirs.

Across the Atlantic, the substitution of one culture for another is well under way, and the Europeans don’t quite know what to do about it. It’s difficult to know what to do when the enemy is already within your borders and when he is practically indistinguishable from the non-violent practitioners of his faith. Because of years of inaction, many parts of Europe are now in a place where all the options are terrible to contemplate.

The lesson for us is that we can’t afford to let the Muslim immigration problem grow to the point where—as in large parts of Europe—it is nearly impossible to deal with the consequences. Because, beyond a certain point, no amount of concrete barriers and bomb-sniffing dogs will be able to stem the terrorist tide.

(Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski / PA via AP)

William Kilpatrick

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William Kilpatrick taught for many years at Boston College. He is the author of several books about cultural and religious issues, including Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right From Wrong; and Christianity, Islam and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. His articles have appeared in numerous publications, including Catholic World Report, National Catholic Register, Aleteia, Saint Austin Review, Investor’s Business Daily, and First Things. His work is supported in part by the Shillman Foundation. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com

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