Europe has an Islamism problem. This has long been evident in the dozens of Islamist terrorist attacks across the continent for nearly 20 years. But the latest manifestation of the issue runs even deeper, beyond the violence itself and into the sources of radicalization within the European Muslim community. Because despite any number of measures – from crackdowns on beheading videos and recruitment efforts on social media to barring European jihadists from returning home after fighting for the Islamic State – the attacks, as the recent ones in Nice and in Vienna prove, continue.
Now some European officials are starting to understand the reason: radicalization doesn’t only occur online or in rooms in the back alleys of Muslim ghettos. It happens live and in broad daylight in the mosques, in the words of the imams who lead them. Now French President Emmanuel Macron, European Council President Charles Michel and others say they have had enough.
Currently, the vast majority of Europe’s imams come from abroad, largely from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Morocco. In France, 70 percent of practicing imams are not French. Morocco and Turkey’s religious affairs arm, the Diyanet, Morocco oversee the majority of mosques in the Netherlands. In 2017, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia each sent more than 100 imams to France. Added funding also comes from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates, who collectively sponsor hundreds of European mosques.
That needs to stop, Michel believes. European imams need to be taught values of “tolerance and openness.” On Nov. 9, he declared on Twitter, “In order to fight the ideologies of hate, we must as soon as possible create a European institute for the training of imams in Europe.”