By Caitlin Geiger
On November 20, I attended a lecture given by Jonathan Laurence on the subject of European Islam. The lecture hall was half-full with people who wanted to know more about the subject and why some radicals felt the need to commit terrorist acts, the horrific attacks in Paris that occurred a week earlier giving the space an air of urgency and confusion.
To start, Laurence went through a brief history of Islamic diaspora and extremist terrorism. He pointed out that there was a great increase after World War II; immigration of Muslims to Europe went from 400,000 in 1950 to 18.6 million in 2010. But, the tension between “embassy” Islam of the origin countries’ recognized regimes and dissident Islam has been a cause of terrorism for the past thirty five years, the subway incident in 1995 marking the beginning. Laurence said this was also result of the politicization of Islam and political violence. The European governments were constantly interfering in the immigrants’ religious lives, unable to differentiate between civil and religious law. This caused headscarves to be banned in French schools and a lack of proper mosques and prayer rooms for practicing Muslims. Growing tension between the European people and the newer Muslims grated against religious freedom and caused some Muslims to be pushed to the outskirts of society, forming a more radical group.
Laurence concluded that Islam can be connected to the countries of origin, and also be European. For this reason, European countries need to make it easier for Islamic immigrants to practice their religion. They need to “fill the gaps” so there is no room for Muslims on the outskirts to become radical and violent. They also need to come up with effective counter-radicalism strategies as a response to the fight of radicals and freedom fighters.