EU Islamic Communities after Cologne Sex Attacks

The growing Islamophobia in the EU and unwillingness to positively integrate Islamic communities into European civil society have had a counter effect on young Muslims. The fundamental reason for the current situation is the fallacious and ineffective EU policies on migrants and values.

Mass sex attacks and muggings of local women by Muslim refugees in Cologne on New Year’s eve have provoked a public outcry in Germany. At first, the German authorities and police tried to cover up these deplorable incidents and then they prohibited and dispersed anti-migrant protests. But the issue is so serious that EU countries have resumed discussions of the Schengen Agreement, even though European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned that the Schengen Zone’s collapse would soon be followed by the fall of the euro and EU. A week ago, EU interior ministers agreed that EU countries should have the right to restrict the implementation of the Schengen Agreement for up to two years. This should be a temporary measure, but it’s clear that restrictions on the freedom of movement, which is one of four fundamental EU freedoms, will be serious and long-lasting.

At the same time, several EU countries, including Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, took action in January 2016 to restrict the number of migrants in their territories. The Dutch authorities are discussing the possibility of deporting tens of thousands of migrants, which is not unlike the forceful resettlement of entire ethnic groups in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

The crisis in Cologne has aggravated a fundamental issue – the attitude of the EU authorities and the public towards their Islamic communities. Public discontent over migrants has led to an outbreak of Islamophobia, putting in question the EU values of tolerance and multiculturalism. Some people in Germany, which has had a large Turkish community for a long time, claim that Arabs are worse than Turks. Many public figures in the EU have taken up the fight for neglected Christian values. They argue that the EU political establishment’s refusal to include the idea of Christianity as the spiritual foundation of Europe in the preamble of the draft EU Constitution and Lisbon Treaty was a big mistake. The spiritual vacuum left by the rejection of Christianity is logically filled by other religious values, primarily Islamic ones.

The growing Islamophobia in the EU and unwillingness to positively integrate Islamic communities into European civil society have had a counter effect on young Muslims. The creation of the Islamic State (a terrorist organization prohibited in Russia) and the radical forms of Islamic activism it preached (dawat ul-islam) greatly increased the popularity of ISIS in EU Islamic communities over the past two years. Literally thousands of EU citizens are fighting in Iraq and Syria for ISIS.

In this context, it is indicative that a group of four British ISIS terrorists, including mass murderer Jihadi John, have been nicknamed “The Beatles.” The Beatles, one of the key symbols in postmodernist and post-Christian Europe, now denotes a group of Islamic terrorists; worse still, these four are EU citizens who have openly rejected the EU way of life and values. Drummer Ringo Starr has expressed disgust over the choice of the name for the ISIS cutthroats, but it was too late as “The Beatles” had acquired a new meaning.

The sexual assaults in Cologne and movement towards the termination of the Schengen Agreement in continental Europe were not the only important events in early 2016. Another potentially explosive issue, even though it doesn’t look as such now, is a proposed system for registering and inspecting out-of-school education settings. The idea was proposed last year and parliamentary hearings in this regard were held in early 2016. It has divided the establishment and UK Islamic communities, which fear the idea is aimed at limiting the activity of Islamic educational centers at mosques.

The British Muslim Forum, which claims to be an independent, national representative umbrella body, has openly protested against the initiative. It argues that restrictions on the open teaching of moderate Islam would only result in the growth of secret cells that teach a radical and extremist version of Islam in the spirit of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

An important element in light of the reaction to Islamophobia following the Cologne events is a new wave of discussions launched on EU Islamic websites, according to which not just Alawi Syria, but also the EU are a “land of war” (Dar al-Harb), that is, areas where Muslims are in the minority and are persecuted. These websites claim the reasons for this are the anti-Islamic demonstrations and attacks on Muslims after the Cologne events. According to this logic, as attacks on Muslims amount to the start of a jihad, the entire EU is the zone of jihad.

These discussions on Islamic websites and forums in the EU have drawn increased attention to the so-called “global jihad,” which means the spreading of radical Islam outside countries with traditionally Islamic populations and, by doing so, dividing the world into the “land of Islam” (Dar ul-Islam) and “land of war” (Dar al-Harb). In other words, in January 2016, Islamic radicals resumed their calls to move the jihad to the West and stage the 9/11 attacks in the EU. It must be admitted that the short-sighted and inconsistent policies of the EU authorities have let a terrible genie out of the bottle.

The growth of anti-Islamic sentiment after the Cologne events has had another potentially dangerous consequence – the growing divide between the Sunni and Shia communities in the EU. The conflict in Syria has increased mutual complaints between them. Radical Salafi communities have accused Shiites of shirk, which is the sin of practicing idolatry or polytheism, and used the practice of takfir against them, which is the excommunication of a Muslim as kafir (infidel). The number of these radical Salafi communities has rapidly increased on EU Islamist forums in light of the Syria conflict, which has attracted public attention to the Alawi doctrine and dogmas relating to the pseudo-divine role of Imam Ali and his mystic knowledge of the so-called “secret Quran.” In response, EU Shiites have intensified their anti-Sunni campaigns. One of the most active campaigners is Shia cleric Yasser al-Habib, who resides in the UK. These campaigns sharply criticized a number of characters from early Islamic history whom Shiites consider to be enemies of Imam Ali, primarily Aisha (Ayesha), the third wife of the Prophet Muhammad, and Caliph Omar bin al-Khattab.

The execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia in early January 2016 only added fuel to mutual accusations on EU Islamic forums. The videos of Sheikh Al-Nimr’s last public addresses and his calls for fighting the Saudi Royal House were reposted on European Shia websites. Al-Nimr’s anti-Saudi slogan, “We’ll defeat you,” has immediately become famous among European Shiites. Following the Cologne events, Shia TV networks such as Fadak and Ahl-e-Bait and related forums openly said that the Sunni in Cologne have disgraced Islam and provoked Islamophobia in the EU. Such statements are further aggravating the complex inter-faith situation in the EU.

Moreover, the division in EU Islamic communities has grown deeper after Cologne, with migrants who have lived in the EU for a long time and hold EU citizenship calling for a clear division between “old” and “new” migrants. They obviously want to avoid criticism for the recent events and the effects of the ensuing Islamophobia. In response, the “new” migrants wrote on Islamic forums that the leaders of the “old” migrants are undermining Muslim unity.

This situation is easily exemplified by the French paradox, whereby Arabs and black Africans who settled in France and received French citizenship long ago vote for the party of Marine le Pen as they fear the influx of new migrants will undermine their social wellbeing. The “new” migrants don’t threaten to snatch jobs from the white population, for they will hardly become Sorbonne professors or journalists at leading newspapers. But they are likely to take low-skilled jobs from the “old” migrants.

The conclusion is that the events in Cologne and the subsequent reaction to them have not just challenged EU unity and the Schengen Agreement, but also raised a new wave of Europeans’ dislike for the Islamic communities. In a logical response, the sentiments of these communities have become more radical, as can be seen from Islamic websites and forums. Taken together, this can undermine public safety in the EU and result — considering the fact that between 20 and 30 percent of the population in large EU cities (like Birmingham or Bradford and some districts of Brussels, Paris, London, Berlin and Cologne) — in a predictable increase in street unrest and mutual estrangement. It would be unwise to place the entire blame at the doors of EU Islamic communities. The fundamental reason for the current situation is the fallacious and ineffective EU policies on migrants and values.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.