On 22 March, European Parliament (EP) discussed new measures to stop terrorism. In order to prevent new attacks, the EP proposes more thorough checks at European borders, better police and judicial cooperation in tracing suspects, as well as pursuing perpetrators. It further aims at cutting the financing of terrorism and tackling organised crime, which it deems connected to terrorism. Finally, it wants to address radicalisation.

There is a handy ‘infographic,’ which tells us that in 2016 alone, 142 people died in terrorist attacks. That an estimated 5000 Europeans have joined terrorist organisations in Iraq and Syria. In France, the UK and Spain 456, 149 and 120 persons respectively were arrested for terrorism-related offences, making a total of 1002, 44% of which were EU citizens. To combat this, the infographic claims a wide range of ‘measures’ dating back to May 2015. Most of them only skirt around the issue, dealing with the periphery of terrorism: border checks, money laundering and a weapon’s embargo on Saudi Arabia. ”

However, it also mentions a November 2015 call by MEP’s “for a new EU strategy to tackle extremism.” In line with this, there is a reference to an interview, held in 2015, recorded just before the Paris attacks:

Note how it already mentions the number of 5000 Europeans having joined Jihadist terrorist organisations. Note also how the first question, in itself loaded enough, is answered by a monologue on ‘social circumstances‘ only tangentially related. Youths can no longer identify with the nation, Rachida Dati MEP says, but instead

identify themselves through the smallest common denominator, that can sometimes be religion, a perversion of religion. (…) So how is prevention done today? Via education. Via the fight against inequalities.

This is an answer that fails any critical appraisal. There are more cringe-worthy moments in the interview, such as the assertion that large internet companies make money off hosting material that stimulates radicalisation. Both the ‘social inequalities’-argument, as well as the ‘it’s Western meddling in the Middle East’-excuse consistently miss the ideological background necessary to impel people to kill and be killed.

It is slightly worrying, that an EP report from 2015 is the latest the infographic can offer when it comes to the EU’s efforts to combat radicalisation of young EU citizens. But the contents of the report are more worrying.

In March 2015, the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) published a briefing on Religious fundamentalism and radicalisation. In it, the EPRS claims the then-recent terrorist attacks highlight

the need not only to reinforce the policy measures against radicalisation and religious fundamentalism but also to understand the processes of these two phenomena in the European context.

It especially claims that

Radicalisation is a complex matter that has not been defined uniformly in the social sciences. (…) Radicalisation is a dynamic process cutting across social and demographic strata.

It also says that its causes are complex, with terrorist organisations from outside of the EU playing an important role:

It can be seen as a phenomenon of people embracing views which could lead to terrorism, and is closely connected to the notion of extremism. Religious fundamentalism, a belief in an absolute religious ideology with no tolerance for differing interpretations, is a contributing factor to the development of radical opinions.

It also claims that those that radicalise lack a single profile making “a targeted response difficult” although it suggests that:

most young extremists fall into one of two categories: well- educated undergraduates and people with qualifications in engineering and IT, or school drop-outs, often with criminal backgrounds.

Because of this, a single prevention strategy is not able to catch everybody at risk. When it comes to online radicalisation, the briefing specifically states that:

While the use of internet for recruitment and propaganda is undeniable, it is argued that it should not be overestimated. It seems that most individuals have some sort of contact with extremism before becoming further indoctrinated online.

The briefing is rather good in its argumentation, presentation of the literature and being careful with its conclusions. It really is a shame that not that much of the briefing seems to have made it into the actual report. Instead, what we get in the report is:

G. whereas, because of terrorism and radicalisation, there is much stereotyping of religions, which in turn is bringing about renewed upsurges of hate crimes and hate speech motivated by racism, xenophobia or intolerance of opinions, beliefs or religions; whereas it must be pointed out that it is the perverse misuse of religion, and not religion per se, that is one of the causes of radicalisation;

H. whereas radicalisation is not to be associated with any one ideology or faith but may occur within any of them;

I. whereas one of the arguments used by violent extremists in recruiting young people is that islamophobia is increasing, following years of war on terror, and that Europe is no longer a place where Muslims are welcome or can live in equality and practise their faith without discrimination and stigmatisation; whereas this can lead to a feeling of vulnerability, aggressive anger, frustration, loneliness and isolation from society;”

That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand.