Re-Thinking Homegrown Terrorism

BERLIN – Homegrown terrorism stands high on the security agenda almost everywhere in Europe. Its links to international extremist Islamic groups require that governments review and re-think how they respond to it.

International security cooperation, border controls, and transport sector monitoring are all important, but they don’t go far enough. Governments must also identify radical tendencies within Europe’s Muslim communities and devise strategies to counteract them. The narrow aim should be to nip terrorism in the bud, and the broader aim should be to open a dialogue with the Muslim community.

This agenda emphasizes intercultural communication as the best way to break down prejudices and negative clichés on both sides. From the point of view of security policy, intercultural communication is intended to immunize those sections of the Muslim community that are deemed to be potentially receptive to extremist propaganda, with the clear aim being to prevent their radicalization and recruitment to jihad .

For immunization of this sort to be successful, it is important to first clarify what can turn someone into a jihadi . There appears to be no single answer. But one common pattern that does emerge is that the jihadi message, because it promises meaning and identity, seems to appeal particularly to people who are unsure about who they are and where they are heading.