TCS Daily

Hearts and Minds

By Adrian Pepper - April 26, 2004 12:00 AM

As Europe braces itself for more terrorist attacks and sends its security officials to discuss cooperation, is anyone addressing the question of stopping disaffected young people from turning to racially-motivated extremist violence?

You do not win a war on terror with security measures alone. You have to win by demoralizing the enemy, by divorcing the claims of the terrorist recruiter from the reality as perceived by the potential recruit; you have to remove any moral or practical justification for terrorism. The recent actions of terrorists in Istanbul and Madrid are clearly designed to foment unrest between religious groups, even those which have lived together for centuries.

European governments appear to understand that terrorist recruiters feed on resentment, that the resentment off which they feed is racial and religious in nature, and that the reduction of racial and religious resentment should be a goal for public policy.

France cannot be faulted for the energy which it has taken to the task of reducing racial and religious tensions. It has determinedly pushed through laws to ban the wearing of headscarves in state institutions, a measure underlining the French state's neutral religious stance. Recently President Jacques Chirac announced a €6 billion urban regeneration program, to be targeted at predominantly Muslim areas of French cities, where there's been a sharp increase in anti-Jewish sentiment and regular attacks - both verbal and physical - on Jewish schoolchildren. Take away the sense of alienation among young unemployed Moslems, he reasons, and you reduce the resentment which causes racial and religious tensions. Distinctively French dirigiste measures, you might think, but at least he is trying something.

Britain, on the other hand, appears less than serious about preventing the spread of resentment between religious groups. Following a report from the government's advisory body on animal slaughter, the government has declared that Kosher and Halal slaughter is likely to cause animals, especially cattle, very significant pain and distress. The British government has not published one shred of scientific evidence to support its view, but its message is subtle and dangerous: Jews and Moslems use barbarous methods of animal slaughter. Perhaps they are oblivious to the message this sends out to the racists of Britain's far right and the implications they will draw from it. Or perhaps they prefer to appease naive animal welfare activists than think through the long term consequences for human welfare of their statements.

The leaders of America understood right at the beginning of the war against terror the importance of showing ordinary, law-abiding Moslems that they had no quarrel with Islam. President Bush said on September 12, 2001, "We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah."

But many of Europe's leaders still miss the point. For example, the Poles, Spanish, Maltese and Irish all wish to see a reference to a Christian God included in Europe's new constitutional settlement. Perhaps they too are oblivious to the message that this sends out. Or perhaps they don't want to think through the consequences of handing another easy propaganda victory to the fomenters of racist resentment.

To win this war on terror, Europe's leadership needs to be tough on terror and tough on the causes of terror. Judging by the evidence of thought and word and deed, this war is not even half won.

Adrian Pepper is Executive Director of the Global Business Research Institute.


TCS Daily Archives