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The Making of Euro-Jihadism

Europe must look inward to address the rise of homegrown jihadism. This does not mean that it should temper its secularism, but rather that it must breathe life into the “European dream,” ensuring that all people have access to real opportunities to improve their lives.

MADRID – The Belgian historian Henri Pirenne linked Europe’s birth as a Christian continent in the eighth century to its rupture with Islam. Pirenne probably would never have expected a Muslim ghetto in Brussels to emerge, much less become a hub of jihadism, with marginalized and angry young Muslims revolting against Europe from within its own borders.

Divorce is not an option these days. But nor is the kind of marriage that the Islam scholar Tariq Ramadan advocates. Ramadan, a grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, is a Swiss citizen and a resident of the United Kingdom who argues that Islamic ethics and values should be injected into the European system. Europe would then not just tolerate Islam, but actually embrace it as an integral part of itself.

The problem with Ramadan’s vision is that Europe is an overwhelmingly secular continent, with a profoundly forward-thinking approach to ethics. Islamic societies, by contrast, are both deeply religious and deeply embedded in the past. When Islamists speak of political or social reform, they are typically looking backward, hoping to resurrect a time when core European principles – from gender equality to gay marriage – were repudiated. Even Muslims who support the modernization of Islam would typically stop well short of Europe’s ethical vision.

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