EUROPE has a jihadi terrorism problem, yet the EU, Remainers, and wider liberal-institutionalists pretend that terrorism is a problem for only nationalists, imperialists and Brexiteers.
Progressives discount European terrorism with a number of methodological tricks: First they measure terrorism as deaths without admitting wider costs; second, they pretend that jihadi terrorism isn’t Islamist and third they recategorise all other terrorism as ‘Right-wing’.
As Douglas Murray articulated so clearly more than two years ago now, Europe’s elite pretends that the answer to extremist attacks on European civilisation is to deny European civilisation and to accommodate the extremism, thus doing the extremists’ job for them.
First, let’s clarify the parameters. European terrorism is low by some measures, but the measures are biased. Europe has high capacity to counter terrorism. By mobilising a lot of capacity, deaths to terrorism are low, but the cost of counter-terrorism is high.
Europe is an expensive region in general, and the consequences of terrorism tend to be more expensive here than in any other region. Reconstruction costs are high because construction costs are high; insurance payouts are high because Europeans are relatively well insured; additionally, most governments guarantee compensation.
These costs are passed on to taxpayers and consumers. We all pay for terrorism. Triumphalism about low death rates belies the costs to keep deaths low.
Deaths and even attack-frequency are biased measures: Terrorism has always been an infrequent and low-lethality hazard compared to routine hazards, such as storms and road traffic accidents. Whenever a government or a journalist starts telling you how unlikely you are to be killed by terrorism, you should be asking: What about the other costs?
Few of the costs are direct (lost life and damaged property). Most of the costs are indirect. Remember that time you pondered whether a trip to London was really necessary after a terrorist attack there? Terrorists did that to you.
Do you remember when checking in for a flight was not so time-consuming, exhausting, and invasive? Terrorists changed that for you. Do you remember when Westminster was not bound in a ring of steel?
The EU itself calculated that the direct costs of terrorism in Europe amounted to 5.6billion euros from 2004 to 2016; the indirect costs, in terms of lost economic activity, amounted to 180billion euros (32 times greater). Can you guess which country suffered the most lost economic activity? It was Britain (43.7billion euros), despite our great experience and insularity.
Then there are the costs that cannot be monetised, such as the damage to culture, freedoms, and quality of life: Cities cancel public events; elites discourage freedom of speech in case someone with a violent disposition is offended; employers discourage the wearing of Christian symbols.
For instance, in 2016, after a surge in jihadi terrorism, the city of Lille in France cancelled the largest open-air market in Europe, a tradition since the 1300s, with two million visitors and 10,000 vendors per event. It was reinstated later, but remains reduced and restricted.
Perhaps these sorts of changes help to keep deaths down, but at what cost to civilisation? Are we really defeating terrorism when we change our behaviour – despite all those ‘we stand united in the face of terrorism and will not allow anyone to divide us’ statements – to conform to terrorists?
This isn’t just a socio-economic cost, it’s a psychological stressor. Terrorism is one of the contributors to our declining sense of security, wellbeing, optimism, and happiness. In December 2017, residents of 28 countries were surveyed on where a major terrorist attack would be most likely: Britons were most likely to put Britain top of the list.
This is a European problem, not just a British problem. Of the 10 countries whose residents are most concerned about terrorism, seven are European (the other three are Israel, India, and Saudi Arabia).
What makes Europeans feel so pessimistic about terrorism? As shown above, it’s not for lack of material capacity. The root cause is institutional. European institutions work against the moderates and in favour of the extremists:
- Open borders are prioritised over security;
- Transnationalism is a ‘fundamental freedom’, while local identities are caricatured as nationalisms ;
- Europol won’t release photographs of terrorist suspects in case they violate their rights to privacy;
- Governments pretend they need new laws rather than enforce existing laws;
- Stop-and-search powers are removed, given utterly false claims that they are racist (thank you Theresa May);
- Ignorant elites claim that all terrorists can be talked into peace (thank you Tony Blair);
- Citizens may defect to the Islamic State, yet still reclaim citizenship;
- People who voice the fact that the riskiest terrorism is Islamist are dismissed as Islamophobic‘;
- Right-wing terrorism’ is offered as a bigger problem than Islamism, by categorising everything that is not Islamist as ‘Right-wing’;
- Governments consult politicised religious organisations, then claim they are ‘engaging’ with all Muslims;
And, as we learned last week in London, a convicted jihadi terrorist can be released from prison halfway through a sentence for plotting to bomb various public sites, attend a conference on prisoner rehabilitation with no more security than an electronic tag on his ankle, threaten to blow up attendees with a suicide belt, then stab to death two people.
Why didn’t Usman Kahn serve his sentence? On what grounds was he judged safe for release? What of his rehabilitation programme?
Part of the explanation is that rehabilitation is easy to manipulate: In 2011, at his trial, he recanted Islamism; in 2012, under his lawyer’s advice, he asked to join a deradicalisation course. Yet he doesn’t seem to have received any official deradicalisation or rehabilitation.
The other part of the explanation is the fashionable moral relativism that prevents us from treating terrorists as the special cases they are. In 2013, Usman Kahn won an appeal against his ‘indeterminate sentence’ and received a ‘custodial sentence’ instead, whose minimum (and normal) term is half the sentence. He was released in December 2018, after less than eight years inside, instead of 16.
Yet terrorists should not be treated as custodials. For violent offences, the sentence should be conditional on correction, with no minimum and no maximum. Terrorists should be separated from other prisoners to prevent radicalisation. Their release should be restricted, monitored, and incentivised.
Compare this to the more successful programmes of Singapore and Saudi Arabia, where terrorists are tried in specialist courts, held in specialist prisons, released into specialist halfway houses, regain freedoms, benefits, and welfare conditional on compliance, and are monitored interpersonally, not just electronically.
In Britain, by contrast, jihadis celebrate Jobseeker’s Allowance as ‘Jihadi-seeker’s Allowance’. Just imagine how the government would struggle with the mainstream media and European human rights lawyers if it suggested that welfare should be conditional on behaviour!
European governments tend to pretend that they are more preventative than correctional, but their preventatives are superficial. The British government’s counter-terrorism strategy includes the ‘Prevent programme’, but this is more than 16 years old now.
Referrals are voluntary; most referrals are not treated as potential terrorists; and even self-confessed extremists are subjected to little more than verbal warnings or talk therapy. Some eventual terrorists have avoided the programme.
Salman Abedi, who blew himself up in Manchester in May 2017, was not in the Prevent programme, despite being reported to police for extremism, engaging in crime, travelling to fight in a failed state (Libya), and meeting in Libya with the same Islamic State terrorists involved in the killings in Paris in November 2015.
The three London Bridge killers (June 2017) were in Prevent, but not monitored. Khuram Butt was reported to the anti-terror hotline after watching videos by the Islamic State and the American extremist Ahmad Musa Jibril.
Another neighbour contacted police after he tried to convert her children to Islam. Earlier, he was filmed for a documentary with a group of other British Muslims praying in front of a jihadi flag in a London park and confronting police; some of these men travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State.
In those same years, he had received cautions and indictments for fraud and common assault, yet he was never prosecuted or restricted.
In numerical terms, at least, the problem is likely to get worse. On November 11, Turkey started to send former Islamic State fighters back to wherever they claim citizenship, even if their citizenship has been revoked. In most cases their citizenship is European. The number yet to be processed is beyond 1,000.
About 400 former Islamic State fighters had returned to Britain by 2018; perhaps 300 remain outstanding, after deducting those probably killed while fighting. Almost all are entitled to return under current interpretation of domestic and international law, although they may be prosecuted for joining a proscribed organisation, at least.
The few cases of revoked citizenship are actually conditional on dual citizenship, so that the subject is not left stateless. Even that unilateral action upsets the other country to where the subject is entitled to return.
The jihadi population is much greater than those who have emigrated to fight abroad. In 2017, Britain estimated its jihadi population at 20,000 to 35,000. In each of 2018 and 2019, British police have claimed 700 active investigations into terrorist plots. Yet we have already had more terrorism in 2019 than 2018. When we have ‘good years’ (e.g., deaths went down from 2017 to 2018), progressives claim progress, but they avoid long-term trends and wider measures.
As during the 2017 general election, the 2019 general election campaign elicited no attention to counter-terrorism until a new terrorist outrage forced the candidates to over-compensate. Yet they blame each other and promise little.
The current government has pledged to stop custodial sentences for terrorists, without explaining why it hadn’t raised the issue already. Nobody is raising the immaturity of British prevention, deradicalisation, rehabilitation, and repatriation programmes.
We could hope that finally leaving the EU would release Britain to do what it wants, but the current deal to leave is another fake Brexit, with little freedom from EU legislation, for some indefinite period.
Even if Britain were to restore its sovereignty, Britons would still need to learn to question their elite’s pretence that progressives are beating and not accommodating terrorism.