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Fighting terrorism – contribution to EPP Working Group

The new pattern of terrorism

Most terrorist organizations have had local goals or ambitions that have been limited to a certain region or country. The IRA and the ETA and several Palestinian terrorist movements are good examples of this kind of terrorism. However, to be able to understand the terrorist threat of today there is reason to look back at another type of terrorism, defined by differing political goals.

During the 1960s and 1970s we could witness the growth of a different type of modern terrorism that admittedly was local in its focus but had more wide-ranging global goals. The German RAF and the Red Brigades in Italy are good examples. Lenin’s theory that terror served a purpose in the gain of power as well as in the control of power is another example of this that had catastrophic consequences.

The traditional terrorist movements are characterized by their local goals and ambitions. They are primarily met by international solidarity and by the fact that they are challenged and fought on a national level. For the EU this challenge must be met by crime- fighting cooperation and solidarity with member states upholding the rule of law. These terrorist movements are not part of a new international terrorism.

Today there is really only one political pattern that leads to what can be defined as global terrorism where the actual goal of terror is aimed at societies and people all over the world. This type of terror, realized by totalitarian Islamist movements have a different and a broader focus than that of traditional terrorist movements. For this very reason it demands a different outlook from the point of the international society and the EU.

A growing totalitarian Islamism is a threat facing everyone, not only a single country

The totalitarian view of society that influences fundamentalist Islamic groups does not aim to overthrow one regime or another and it is not focused on a territorially limited goal. It aims to fight free societies as an antithesis to the totalitarian goals it represents in itself. Even though it uses the symbols and faith of Islam it is not an expression of the religion. The line of confrontation is not geographical but ideological, like the terror of Communism and Nazism once was.

When it comes to their political ambition, the Islamic terrorist groups are not different than their Communist or Nazi predecessors. They all share the same totalitarian view on society combined with a resent towards democratic ideals and open societies. They are of sectarian nature and can turn against their own members as well as people of other societies. People in the groups that do not represent the ”pure way” must, just like others be condemned or eliminated. Therefore totalitarian Islamists are just as big of a threat to Muslims that they are to free and democratic societies of the world.

A European strategy to counter totalitarian Islamism
At the same time as totalitarian Islamism legitimizes itself through religious beliefs it lacks respect for the fundaments of religious faith. For this very reason it should not be met with the respect or tolerance that a religious movement is being met with in a civilized society. With this in mind a European strategy to counter totalitarian terrorism should be formulated. It should be expressed and developed in domestic politics of the member states, their cooperation, as well as in the common foreign and security policy of the Union.

Where totalitarian Islamism can thrive while hiding behind Muslim culture and faith a social sphere is created where terrorists cannot be successfully separated from the majority. It is therefore an essential task to stress that it is the totalitarian ideals and the violence that cannot be accepted, not the religious beliefs in themselves.

Furthermore it is of vast importance to underline that it is neither Islam nor fundamentalist beliefs that in themselves that pose the threat, instead it is the extreme and totalitarian view of society that emanates from these sources. It would therefore be one of Europe’s and the free world’s biggest mistakes in the fight against terror to accept the image that the terrorists wish to uphold of themselves, namely that they are representatives of Muslim faith and Muslim people all over the world.

Totalitarian Islamism has the same weaknesses that all totalitarian movements suffer from, when facing the open society. It is afraid of the impact that impressions from open societies bring with them. An important conclusion is therefore to see the Muslim world for what it really is: heterogenic and open for influences from other cultures where the political regime is more allowing. The versatility of Islam must therefore be a focal point.

At the same time the totalitarian Islamists, like all revolutionaries and terrorists are dependent on an allowing social environment that looks upon the struggle as a struggle for broader human needs. This fact is important to take into consideration so that the international community’s actions do not make Muslims all over the world express solidarity with those that use illegal and violent measures. This is why the European society should be an open society to those living on this continent, regardless of religious faith at the same time as European foreign policy should aim at giving Muslims in other parts of the world the same right to freedom and democracy that other world citizens enjoy.

How to define the European challenge

1. We must not accept the image that terrorists create of themselves. They do not represent anyone else than themselves and their own extreme ideals.

2.We must clarify that what we are fighting is terrorism, not a religious movement. It is terrorism, not Islam that is in a counter position to our open society.

3.Terrorism is the Muslim world’s biggest barrier for human development, freedom, prosperity and democracy. We must therefore support all other political and societal forces in the environment surrounding the terrorists that are being suppressed or eliminated. These positive forces should be identified regardless of whether they exist on the West Bank, in Gaza or in the dictatorships of the Muslim world.

4. A strategy like this demands a certain consequence regarding standards in the politics of the Union that for example, the Hamas-led regime of the Palestinian authority and the Iranian government, as well as others, have to live up to.

5. We must fight all political activities that are being based on the expression of threat. Threat of terror and murder should be considered as criminal acts and as such they cannot under any circumstances be protected by religious tolerance.

6.The EU must highlight those assaults that that have been committed against human beings in the name of religion and condemn these as acts inspired by a political orientation. Islamic leaders threat of violence and acts of violence is an abuse of religious symbols that the Muslim population of Europe needs to relate to.

7. The EU should initiate an action plan for democracy in the Muslim world. The EU should support democratic and liberal groups and persons being pursued should draw international attention. The abuse of dictatorships against their citizens should be condemned. Leaders that represent totalitarian ideals, oppression and support terrorism should be isolated and not accepted by their fellow world leaders.

8. The policies of the Union toward Muslim countries that do uphold democratic standards, or are moving in a democratic direction, is of vast importance. The negotiations with Turkey as well as the Barcelona process should be viewed out of this perspective.

9. The member states should have a zero tolerance level when it comes to threat and violence under the cover of religious movements and beliefs. This stance must be taken just as hard on threat of violence within Muslim groups in our countries as well as acts of violence outside Muslim groups.