Two days before the July 7 terrorist bombers were identified, recently retired police commissioner Lord John Stevens predicted that the bombers would be "apparently ordinary British citizens, young men conservatively and cleanly dressed and probably with some higher education.." He proved prescient.
The suicide bombers turned out to be well-educated, middle-class, British-born Moslems of Pakistani origin. Friends described Shehzak Tanweer as more interested in martial arts – he held a university degree in sports science – than the local mosque. This "best lad you could ever meet" frequently denounced Islamic extremism. Another of the bombers was a typical teenager, wearing Western clothing, until a recent religious conversion to militant Islam. The British-born mastermind of the plot was reported to have attended an Al Qaeda planning session in Pakistan 16 months ago, at which lists of future targets were finalized.
Though the July 7 suicide bombers were the first British-born Moslems to detonate on the British soil, they were hardly the first Islamic terrorists with plans to terrorize their native lands. Omar Khyam, a university student and star soccer player, and eight accomplices of South Asian origin, were arrested by British authorities in April 2004 possessing half a ton of explosives, which they intended for use in London. Kamal Bourgass was sentenced to 17 years in prison for planning to release the poison ricin on the London Underground. Had he succeeded the toll might have been far worse than that of July 7. Three British-born citizens and Al Qaeda members are currently on trial for attempting to prepare a dirty bomb. They were found with maps of three major U.S. financial centers at the time of their arrest.
Nor were July 17 suicide bombers the first British-born Moslems with blood on their hands. Daniel Pearl's killer, Omar al-Sheikh, is the brilliant son of Pakistani immigrants to England. The two suicide bombers who blew themselves up at Mike's Place in Tel Aviv in 2003, killing three, were also British-born.
The pattern of home-grown terrorists is not limited to Britain. The killer of Theo Van Gogh, who told the court after his conviction that if ever released from prison he would eagerly kill again, was Dutch-born, with university training in accounting and information science.
The knowledge that Europe is home to tens of thousands of potential Islamic terrorists, who speak the language, dress like Europeans, and who can pass anywhere sent shivers down the spine of citizens across the continent. And well it should. Fifteen to twenty million Moslems now live in Europe, and that number is projected to double by 2025. High Moslem birthrates and continued large-scale Moslem immigration, necessitated by the need for young workers to prop up the social service networks for an aging and declining European population, mean that Moslems will soon constitute 10% of the European population.
Many of Europe's Moslems live in large, almost completely Moslem enclaves, on the outskirts of major cities. Police are often reluctant to enter these areas, and firefighters refuse to answer calls without a police escort. These bleak urban ghettos, filled with alienated youth, who are neither socially nor culturally integrated into their native countries, are prime recruiting grounds for jihadists.
But it is not only in the Moslem ghettos that jihadists thrive. Robert Leiken, author of "Europe's Angry Muslims" in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, writes that the paradigmatic, second-generation Al Qaeda recruit is upwardly mobile and university-educated, like Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th highjacker. The majority of Al Qaeda's recruiting takes place on university campuses and prep schools.
Al Qaeda now enjoys in Europe something the Marxist terrorist gangs of the '70s lacked – a social base within which to act. A study of the terrorist Islamic terrorist threat in England prepared for Prime Minister Tony Blair estimated that as many as 1% of British Moslems are aligned with extremist movements. That alone is at 16,000 people, of whom as many as 3,000 have passed through Al Qaeda training camps. A Spanish magistrate investigating the Madrid train bombings found that Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi began recruiting young European Moslems for service in Iraq already in 2002.
These native-born terrorists can travel freely back and forth in Europe on their passports, as well as enter the United States without a visa, adding greatly to the difficulty of the task confronting those charged with catching the terrorists before they act.
European governments bear much of the responsibility for the terrorist threat lurking within. Their liberal asylum policies allowed thousands of jihadists, many wanted for terrorist activities in their native lands, to enter Europe. The Dutch alone granted asylum to more 10,000 Moslems. And once within, European countries did little to prevent them from recruiting and proselytizing for jihad. Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri was allowed for years to preach incendiary sermons urging jihad in the Finsley Park mosque, where shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui prayed. Syrian-born Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed threatened Britain with a "9/11 day after day," unless anti-terrorist legislation was rescinded. Yet he was permitted to stay in the country, living on the dole, and continue preaching unmolested. Dutch taxpayers paid for new mosques, and the prayer room allocated to Moslem university students in Hamburg became the war room for the planning of 9/11.
During the 1990s, Islamists began cheerfully referring to London as Londonistan, as the city became the hub of jihadist planning in Europe and home to flourishing jihadist publishing houses and newspapers.
The judicial culture in European countries further aided and abetted the terrorists within. The British House of Lords struck down anti-terrorist legislation of the sort likely to be reintroduced in the wake of the July 7 bombings. A United Kingdom tribunal ordered the release from preventive detention of an Algerian asylum-seeker, who had been found to have ties to Al Qaeda and to be training British Moslems for jihad, on the grounds that prolonged detention was adversely affecting his mental health, rather than simply ordering him expelled from the country. And a German court acquitted accomplices of the Hamburg cell that plotted 9/11.
For once the French stand out for their resolve. Surveillance of mosques in France is constant, and sermons urging jihad or racial hatred are sure to earn the preacher a quick visit from the police and the threat of expulsion from the country.
The French example suggests that there is much that European governments could do to lessen the terrorist threat inside their borders. The starting point would be more restrictive immigration policies and much more careful screening of asylum-seekers. Mosques must be under constant surveillance, and asylum seekers who abuse the hospitality of their host countries by preaching their destruction should be sent packing. Perhaps most important, the large majority of law-abiding Moslem citizens must be given to understand that if they continue to allow the jihadists to gain sanctuary among them life will become intolerable for them in their adopted lands.
It is doubtful, however, that any such measures will prove wholly adequate in the short-run. According to experts, the only certainty about the future is that there will be new and likely worse attacks.
Should Europe fail to recognize the magnitude and the nature of the threat the future is bleaker still. In the wake of 7/7, a British minister remarked, "This is war. People didn't believe that until last Thursday. But they do now."
That, however, remains to be seen. After a spate of editorials in British newspapers seeking to lay the blame for the London blasts on British involvement in Iraq, Gerald Baker was moved to write in the Times, "Why do they hate us?" no longer refers to Islamic terrorists but to the hatred of British elites for their own country. Even if they had to go back to the Crusades, he concluded, they would be sure of only one thing: England's guilt.
The BBC proved why it served as Orwell's model from the Ministry of Information in 1984 when it excised the word "terrorist" from Prime Minister Blair's statement to Parliament and retroactively scrubbed it out of all stories on the London blasts on its webservice. The head of BBC news programs, Helen Boaden, opined that the word terrorist "can be a barrier rather than an aid to understanding."
In fact, it is the refusal to face the nature of the threat or what drives it which blocks understanding. The threat is a death cult within Islam. Even a commentator on Al-Arabiya satellite stations stated forthrightly, "Not all Moslems are terrorists, but the fact remains that almost all terrorists are Moslems." Or as Thomas Friedman put it, "There are a lot of angry people in the world. But the only ones who seem to feel entitled and motivated to kill themselves and totally innocent people, including other Muslims, . . . are young Sunni radicals.
The post-Christian West cannot comprehend religious war, and certainly not the idea the religion can be validated by murdering all those whose views are not in complete accord with one's own. The jihadists goals are neither limited nor rational. They seek, as Amir Taheri, a refugee from Khomeini's Iran puts it, nothing less than "to wipe out the existing society so that they can create their [Islamic] utopia in its place."
It is natural that given the nihilistic hatred directed at them by perhaps hundreds of thousands of Moslems in their midst that Europeans should shrink from contemplating the nature of the threat. When schizophrenic children start acting out in therapy, their parents have been observed to attempt to distract the therapist from the child's strange behavior by turning the conversation in some irrelevant direction.
A similar phenomenon can be observed at the mass level. Anti-Americanism or anti-Israel outbursts by European elites are one tempting, though ultimately fatal, means for Europeans to avoid facing their situation. Israelis are painfully familiar with the phenomenon. In the five years, since Yasir Arafat reopened the terrorist war on Israel full-throttle, the legitimacy of Israel's very existence has never sunk lower in the international community.
Rather than identify with the terror faced by Israel, many Europeans have concluded that such terror can only be explained by a massive wrong – the occupation – as horrible as the slaughter of innocents it provokes. That Islam can never tolerate the sovereignty of non-Moslems on any part of "its land," whether Israel or Andalusia, cannot be admitted as the source of the terror. In this light, Israel's attempts to protect itself and fight terrorism forcefully only render its existence more illegitimate in European eyes.
If Europe cannot shake these habits of mind, the chickens will surely come home to roost even more forcefully than they did on 7/7.