The increasing trend of extremism among the Muslim diaspora youth and its role in terrorism lure great interest in the Western World. Researches and area surveys clearly demonstrate that terrorism and radicalization find more advocates among the Muslim youths compared to their parents’ time. We should accept that it is really difficult to understand this trend for the West because, contrary to their parents, the new generation Muslims are relatively growing up in a wealthier and more stabilized environment. They are richer and more educated than their parents were. Most of them are citizens of the countries where they live in and have more rights compared with their parents. The question at this point is that if they do not have any serious economic and political problem with the country they live in so why the problems in other countries like Palestine or Iraq, where they have never lived before, cause great damages in their personality and lead them into extremism and terrorism. Why was not the Palestine issue so important for the parents to become extremist or terrorist in the past and why has the same problem played a great role in making extremist their sons and daughters? At this point we encounter with the ‘identity’ issue. Without understanding of Muslim diaspora identity of the young people and their parents, it would be difficult to understand the roots of the extremism among the Muslims living in the West.
The identity of an individual or/and a society could be described as their roots. What a root for a tree is is the same for an individual and a society. If individuals have problems with their cultural, religious, ethnic or family roots it is very difficult for them to enhance their identities on a healthy and balanced base. If a root (past, family of a religion, culture etc.) has been abandoned and if that individual or society is being transformed to a new culture, religion, understanding, economic system etc. or all of them at the same time then a new identity must be constructed on new roots. In another word, soul of human must be nourished from a powerful source. If we left a source, we have to find a new and more powerful one. That’s why converts are normally more radical than the others. Converts must legitimate their new choice of life, and he/she makes great efforts to find the good sides of new religion or culture he/she has entered. It is almost impossible to give a meaning to human life in the emptiness. And it is easier for meaningless lives to be thrown to very extreme points. The meaningless of the life and lack of strong identities have big role in the recent radicalization of diaspora Muslim youth. Although immigrant parents came from severe poverty, political crises or even war and conflicts, they had strong ties with their motherland countries. The first immigrants were not educated people yet they were aware of that they were immigrants and the host country was still a foreign country for them. They were grateful to the host country and they made all possible efforts not to harm the neighboring people and the state in the new country. They may even love and embrace the host country more then their motherland country but they were aware of that they were Algerian in France, Turk in Germany or a Moroccan in Netherlands. Most of them could not speak the host country’s language. For instance in Germany, a significant number of Turkish immigrants spoke only Turkish and had no serious contact with the Germans living around. However, contrary to expectations, these people were happy without speaking German language or living under Turkish culture at the heart of Germany. They were not in clash with German cultures and never questioned bad sides of German traditions or culture. The most they felt homesick, they missed their family if they came alone. Even the ghetto life they live in protected them from a clash of cultures and granted them time to explore the new culture and might adopt it step by step in enough time. The strong Turkish culture imported to Germany gave them a shield before the German culture and retained them from confusion and deep problems. Their Turkish and Muslim identity may even became stronger when they came to Germany. Some of them went regularly to mosques and some others became more nationalist. Contrary to the expectations most of them have not been inclined to violence and as long as the conditions do not force them they have kept away from violence or extremism. The basic reason for this relatively peaceful result was that the old immigrants knew their exact role in the new country and they were not forced to transform faster than they were able to. Different from their children, the first immigrants choose the country they lived in.
Another factor in keeping individuals away from violence and extremism and in protecting strong identities is his/her homeland country’s power of supporting national identity.
If the homeland is continuously humiliated from the cultural, economic and political aspects by the host country or host culture and if the motherland state or culture can not defend itself, the individual immigrants develop a self defense system. Individual immigrants generally have two options under such circumstances: They fully accept the superiority of the host country and behave like a ‘slave’ or they strongly oppose the host country’s political, economic or cultural power hood. Of course it is not necessarily has to be resulted in violence. For instance, in the United Kingdom, most of the first generation Bangladeshis, Pakistanis and the other migrants from Britain’s formerly exploited countries (colonies) are excessively passive and peaceful people.
In summary, contrary to general opinion, if immigrants have strong ties with their home country, they will not necessarily have problems in their host country. Its meaning is that Turks in Germany for instance do not have to create any threat for Germany from the point of security though they do not speak German language or they are not fully integrated to the host country. Just an opposite, ‘Turkish cultural wall’ surrounding them may protect them from becoming a threat or being exposed possible threats.
The big gap in the rate of crimes between the first generation and the next generations proves our thesis. The crime rate among the Turkish people in Germany, who can speak only Turkish, is less than the ones who can also speak of German besides to Turkish language. Moreover the crime rate has been increasing among the second and third generations who can not speak Turkish or their Turkish is deteriorated. Of course we don not mean that the integration of the Turks into the German society increases the crime rates among the Germany Turks. Here the problem is more, rapid, hurried, impetuous and unprepared integration efforts than the normal one. Unfortunately the host countries perceive the homeland’s culture as the most important rival for integration of new comers, and try to replace their own culture with their culture by weakening the cultural, ethnic, religious and/or sectarian roots of the immigrants.
For example in Germany, German language courses are much more important than protection of immigrant’s mother tongue and culture. It is actually the case in almost all Western European countries. The Western European states and local authorities are very enthusiastic to teach immigrants German, English or French. As a result of this policy some German Turks speak German language better than the Germans, yet they naturally cannot change their ethnicity and remain a Turk speaking perfect German. The new language may open new channels of dialogue with the new culture yet the new culture cannot provide what the motherland country provides them. By this way they can learn the new country’s language better but they can not be a true German as the host country dreamed so. A Turkish can not be a good German by forgetting his own language and learning German. It must not be expected from him to be a good Germany-originated-German but we should expect from them to be a good Germany Turkish (or German Turk) man or woman. A good Germany Turk on the other hand should German and Turkish cultures very well. If a Turkish immigrant is not part of Turkish culture, he/she does not know to be part of any other cultural identity.
Some radical Western European politicians directly defend forceful assimilation by arguing that all immigrants have to accept the host country’s culture and rules because they live there. This thesis is debatable: First the second and third generation did not choose to live in a diaspora. Their parents came there and the children had to live in these countries. The second and third generations even born in diaspora and they have no country to return back. Second, all forceful integration attempts (assimilation) will cause great reactions and will weaken real integration process. Worst of all forceful integration attempts weaken the cultural identities of the immigrants and will make them weaker before extremists and terrorists who are already wait to abuse the immigrants’ problems with the host countries. Therefore a powerful but voluntary relationship must be established between the host country and the immigrants. The immigrant must adhere to host country with his own will without feeling any force on himself about cultural issues. In this process the traces of his/her own culture will be lost day by day but will never be zero.
The way followed in the West Europe to integrate the Muslim immigrants today is the most dangerous one. Firstly the immigrants are completely seen as ‘foreigners’, as ‘aliens’. In fact most of the immigrants are now citizens of the host countries. The second and third generations were born in the ‘host country’ and have no country to go. Nevertheless the Western literature speaks about them as if they are aliens there. So the problem they caused or they are thought to be caused is still seen as foreign problems. In this situation it became a priority to abolish all the values of the immigrants and replace them with the new country’s values. The worse thing is that this approach continuous in the cases of second and third generations. Even the people who are citizens of the host country for almost three generations are still being evaluated as the foreigners thus they are not supposing the host country as their true homeland and invigorate the feeling of imaginary homeland. Similarly the Western states’ alienist approach towards the immigrant citizens and their families do not allow the Muslim citizens to feel the host country as true homeland country. Though they are citizen of the host country they do not really feel that the state is their own state.
When the states cannot establish a strong link with its Muslim citizens, the radical groups step in and try to abuse the aloneness of the Muslim diaspora people. Inadequate imams play a crucial role in this process. ‘Lost souls’ of the Muslim diaspora search a way to resist the State and the ‘unjust world’. They search something to enjoy their identity. They search a way to find their great roots. The inadequate and radical district imams give all the answers they ask. Imams say that they are part of a greater nation – Islam. Radical so called imams also remind them that the past Islamic history is full of victories against the West. They say ‘the unjust Western period will be ended and the Muslim young people can be part of the ‘victory’ against the West. Thus the diaspora Muslim young people have a cause nourishing their identities. Families are with these young people at this point. They are completely alone but the radical imams and friends. Most of the time father and son go different mosques or imams in this process. So father cannot help his son. Thus the gap between father and son widens and the son reaches a point where he accuse his own father and family of being ignorant and even ‘slaves’ of the West. The high rate of illiteracy among the first generation immigrants also worsens the communication between the family and their children. Thus the young man is exposed to the badly effects of the radicals without family or state help. In addition, the host countries’ policies regarding the Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan issues and anti-Islamic radical politicians’ provocations against the Muslim minorities increase anger among these young people. Moreover, the young man realizes more and more the anti-Islamic factors in the ‘host’ society. The cartoon crisis in Denmark for instance radicalized more the Muslim diaspora youth in Western Europe. All kind of polarization between Islam and the West make them more radical and actually hopeless. They think that there is no way to persuade the West about Islam but violence. They do not know how to combat against the West’s ‘unjust policies’ and the desperately needed prescription comes from the radical so-called imams and other extremist Islamists.
Need for Co-operation with Motherland Culture
The healthiest way to prevent the unwanted results is making cooperation with the homeland Muslim countries.
Firstly the methodology in struggling against extremism and violence tendencies among the diaspora Muslims should be based on voluntarism and the strategy must be implemented hand by hand by the both (host and motherland) of the countries. The most important thing is that mother tongue must not be perceived as a difficulty to integrate the immigrants into the host country. The second language (host country’s language) must be taught not by forcing but only by providing some advantageous. By this way possible resistance will be decreased. A family project could be also vital to help the Muslim diaspora youth. The motherland country could play an important role in police-family co-operation against extremism and terrorism. Most of the families of the extremist young people in these countries are helpless in saving their children and need the police help. However they know very little how they can help their children. We mean that Muslim families are ready for any kind of co-operation to save their children from bad expositions of the religionist extremists.
The mosques in the West are almost footloose and inefficient persons are very easily occupying the imam positions. The host countries must be in touch with the institutions of the homeland countries and develop common projects regarding the religious institutions with the homeland countries. Here again we encounter with important problems. Especially Germany has perceived Turkey’s interest to Turkish Community in Germany as an intervention to its own sovereignty. While in the past the German authorities were calling all the German Turks as only “the Muslims of Germany”, after 9/11 they began to use less the word of “Muslim”. However the relationship with Turkey on immigrant and Muslim Turkish and Germans is still very low. In the British case, the mosques were left to the ignorant imams in the name of multi-culturalism. UK with help of Pakistan or/and Turkey could standardize the Muslim religious institutions in the country.
Shortly the West host countries do not see the Muslims in their countries from themselves and look at them as a ‘foreign/alien’ component of the society. After 11 September 2001 this point of view transformed to a more hostile view. Instead of any improvement, this lead the relations to more deteriorate and worse forms. Most of the German, English, French and other West Europe countries’ politicians hope for the help of the accelerated integration, but actually it is an assimilation not an integration and cause big resistance and reaction among the Muslim minorities. Whereas forceful and rapid integration can also only destroy or severely damage the old culture but unfortunately it can not constitute a new one. As a result of this policy a person type neither a German nor a Turkish has emerged. Its meaning is that the previous peaceful identity is dismantled, the individuals remain without an identity and encounter with political and moral risks. If the person in this position encounter with unemployment or another kind of economic, criminal or political problematic situation it will become very difficult for him to come back again to his normal life and he will transform to a risky person for his environment.
In this process the most dangerous thing is the break of the families. In the initiatives of so accelerated and imposed-integration, the first victim is the family institution. Between the parents for whom it is very difficult to cut ties with the old culture and their children an artificial difference emerges. Especially when the youth coming from the French or German speaking environment they do not want to speak of their own language in their home, and thus the ties between Turkish language/culture and the youth weaken and ultimately break. As a result the second and third generation children and young people are not nourished by their own culture whereas they can also not find mother loads from the culture of Germany or of the country they are living in. For the parents to solve the problems of their children surrounding by the street culture is very difficult and the government also does not present any institution or tool for help to solve these problems. Consequently the immigrants’ children are abandoned to justice of the streets with no strong identity or family/society/state support.
It must never be forgotten that the main factor in a successful integration is volunteerism. To speed up this process, the governments must look for more accelerate ways of increasing the volunteerism of integration. If you want to harvest of two generations in one generation, the process may be reversed although it seems as accelerated. Any intervention to convert the identities is resulted badly in most of the time. Although the degree changes both of the individual and society perceive the intervention to their identity as an assault. That is the reason why we emphasize on the issue of volunteerism. A person must internally change, and only this change may live longer.
As last word, the prevention of the immigrants in the West from violation and terror is only possible if these countries call off the perception of these people, who are in the same time citizens of these countries, as foreigners. The problems will be passed over when the London do not see any difference among the citizens of Pakistan, India and white English men, when the Berlin government sees the Turkish population as its real and equivalent citizens, and when France accepts its North African citizens as true French citizens with their all differences.
10 September 2007
Translated by Serpil ACIKALIN and Muge TUGYAMAC (USAK)