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Let’s change our approach to Islamism

How is it possible that ten months after Charlie Hebdo security organs were not able to improve their job so that they could prevent a much better organized, coordinated and certainly for a long time ahead planned attack that has been fatal for more than 130 people? Was it a failure of a security system or is it simply not possible to thwart all terrorist attacks?

Once the investigation is over, there will be surely conclusions drawn from it in terms of procedure of the security organs, but it will be also a possibility to re-evaluate strategy of the inner security in France and other EU member states. However, the actual approach to fight against jihadist terrorism will not lead to elimination of the successful attacks. Taking into consideration number of ISIS sympathizers in Europe and terrorists in its services with a European passport, rise in the number of attacks could be expected as well. As a matter of fact, it is surprising that there has not been more successful attacks in Europe given the limited capacities of the security organs and enormous number of Muslim radicals (Europol assumes approximately 10 000 EU inhabitants who have joined the ISIS activities in Syria as foreign warriors and they are gradually returning).

If we do not fundamentally change our approach in fight against militant Islamism, we will have to get used to being witness of some smaller or larger attack in EU countries with a numerous Muslim population roughly on a monthly basis. Our security organ will thwart part of them, but there will always be some successful ones. Mutually inspired explosions and shootings will not be exceptional anymore. In other words, number of jihadist zealots among Europeans is already so high that this scenario could not be avoided with current capacities.

It logically raises a rational question: Is there any alternative to eliminate these attacks completely or at least to avoid their rise?

Undoubtedly, once you introduce a police state. Multiple rise of security organs members, permanent surveillance over all inhabitants from the side of intelligence service and restriction of the civil right in a way that even the slightest suspicion would be sufficient for police to arrest and restrict people at large for a longer period of time without court. These measures would necessarily affect the whole society and not only potential terrorists. Europeans are definitely not ready to pay such price for security. The truth is that the number of those who support marginal populist parties that are in favor of such measures, including retrieving of the death penalty, is on the rise.

Nevertheless, there really is also other way to decrease the number of jihadist attacks and at the same time to keep the actual freedom and openness rate in the society. But it will require change of our thinking about Islamism. We can define it as an ideology that demands practicing or introduction of Islam and sharia into legal and political system of the society, including the elements that are incongruous with fundamentals of the democratic legal state (since they are incompatible with personal freedom, human dignity and equality). Islamism defines goals and ideals with which a lot of common Muslims are identified, although they would never fulfill them by resorting to violence, but, on the other hand, militant jihadists are willing to kill for these goals and ideals.

Precisely Islamism ideology and Muslims sympathizing with it are forming a safe background for jihadists. Unfortunately, this background is also in Europe still more often a case. Consequently, Islamism represents a socially extremely dangerous ideology similar to fascism and therefore, state should use, in cooperation with Muslim communities, all possible legal, political and communication means to suppress its propagation. Only when we succeed in reducing the appeal of Islamism among Muslims (and novices) it will be possible to limit the rise of jihadists and their terrorist attacks as well.

This is a translation of an article published 15.11.2015 on

Radko Hokovský is the Executive Director of the European Values Think-Tank.