WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday continued their investigation into the threat of homegrown violent Islamist radicalization with an examination of the factors inspiring extremism, European methods for combating terrorism, and helping Muslims assimilate into society.
At the fourth hearing on the subject this year – entitled “Violent Islamist Extremism: the European Experience” – counterterrorism officials from France and the Netherlands discussed factors in European society that lead disaffected youth to join or emulate terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and described their governments’ efforts to prevent terrorist networks from succeeding on their soil.
“Research tends to show that, overall, European populations have been more susceptible to Islamist radicalization than those in the United States,” Lieberman said. “But the United States cannot ignore the warning signs within our own nation. That’s why it is important to understand how people become radicalized so we can counter that process before it turns into action. Many Islamist terrorist plots have been disrupted across Western Europe thanks to aggressive law enforcement and intelligence, including the extraordinary attempt to blow up airliners on their way to the U.S. from London last summer. We look to Europe because of the decisive steps that governments have taken to address these threats. Just as we created the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of September 11, European governments have altered their structures, policies, and procedures to adapt to the new threat. We hope to learn from their experiences and successes.”
Senator Collins said, “Americans have no monopoly as targets of violent extremists. We are not alone in our determination to defeat terrorism and to protect innocent lives. Many of our European allies have also felt the lash of hatred and murder. Today’s hearing provides us invaluable opportunity to learn from the experience of others. Europe’s large Muslim immigrant populations, its proximity to Muslim countries in North Africa and the Middle East, and its demographic trends give its governments at least as much incentive as America has to understand the sources and targets of violent radicalization and to take effective action to counter the threat.”
Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, Investigating Magistrate for France, said France “has significantly increased international cooperation, with the United States in particular, for the sole purpose of neutralizing terrorist networks where they are operating.”
A major factor leading to homegrown radicalization in Europe is an identity crisis experienced by Muslim youths. That, in turn leads to their alienation from the rest of the society, said Lidewijde Ongering, Deputy National Coordinator for Counterterrorism for the Netherlands. She noted the Dutch government’s dissemination of a wide range of information to combat discrimination. Marc Sageman, a leading authority on Islamist terrorism, said that the radicalization process is driven by young Muslims chasing dreams of glory, and we must take measures to ensure that they can find no glory in terrorism, and eliminate their ability to mobilize through networks.
Two other witnesses, Lynn Martin and Farooq Kathwari, discussed the results of a task force they chaired that examined the Muslim-American experience and recommended accelerating Muslim-American engagement in civic affairs and U.S. political life. They emphasized the importance of working with Muslim community leaders across the country to encourage leadership building and active civic engagement.