Counter-Terrorism: Tourists From Hell


July 28, 2013: European countries are paying a lot more attention to the international travel activities of their Moslem citizens. That’s because a growing number of them are being drawn into the uprisings and civil wars that have shaken up the Arab world in the last two years. Some European counter-terror officials are calling it “jihad terrorism” when young (teens to thirties) Moslem men (and a few women) travel to a country suffering unrest and attempt to join one of the violent factions to fight. Often the most attractive options are Islamic radical groups, whose violent and self-righteous image has the most appeal for impressionable young Moslems in the West.

Border controls are being tightened, both in Europe and in countries near the nations mired in turmoil. More and more, governments are telling the border control officers to watch out for the young jihadis and block them from going any farther. Most of the jihad tourists are not too bright, although many have “guides” from back home to help them around these obstacles. The “guides” are increasingly liable to prosecution for recruiting and guiding terrorist recruits to the combat zone.

For years European police monitored but otherwise ignored this activity but with more of these jihad tourists coming back angrier and more enthusiastic about Islamic terrorism, that is changing. As worrisome as those who go are, more troubling are those who return with combat experience and a desire to bring the war back home with them. There has actually been little of that, just enough to keep local police and intelligence officials on their toes.

It’s not just the Islamic radicals police have to keep an eye on, as there has been another threat that has been growing even faster, year by year. This threat is largely local, violent leftists. Unlike their predecessors in the 1970s, the current leftist violence is less intense. Few people are killed, but there's a lot of property damage and non-fatal injuries. Leftist politics is very popular and fashionable in Europe, but most leftists try and distance themselves from the violent fringe. This has proved difficult, in part because European leftists tend to back Islamic radicals (especially the Palestinians) that involve some tolerance for having violent terrorists as allies.

Most of the leftist violence is caused by groups calling themselves anarchists. Back in the 19th century, the anarchist movement appeared, as the first modern international terrorist network. This was one of the several collectivist movements to come out of the 19th century (along with the more lethal radical socialist ideologies fascism and communism). Anarchists believed that "property is theft" and a hundred years ago were killing quite a few crowned and elected heads of state (including U.S. president McKinley) to get their message across. Bombings were also used, against capitalist targets (like Wall Street, where thirty were killed by a 1920 explosion). Most Anarchists were peaceful (if loud) but the small radical faction had plenty of places to hide. Many innocents were imprisoned and several executed in the mania to suppress the radical anarchists. None of these efforts succeeded. What killed the anarchist movement, and its radicals, was old age (the original 1890s crop were not completely replaced), police action (some were caught), improved working conditions, and, finally, Stalin (who ordered the communists to kill their Anarchist allies to eliminate rivals during the Spanish Civil war). There are still a few anarchists left, but most are academic twits who would rather preach than act, or street thugs who take their anarchy literally, more for thrills than anything else. The street violence attracts the mayhem minded, who adopt the anarchist label for a number of reasons, most having more to do with form than substance. In Europe this sometimes finds Islamic radicals and anarchists trashing the same places. Nothing like a little of the ultra-violence to cultivate some kinship.

While the anarchist violence is a growing problem, police still spend most of their time keeping an eye on Islamic radicals. This is a problem that is actually declining but not fast enough. A decade ago German police and military intelligence estimated that they had about 3.45 million Moslems in the country and that about three percent of those supported al Qaeda’s objectives (Islam becoming the only religion on the planet). These Islamic radicals do not support violence but would give aid to al Qaeda terrorists. More worrisome, the Germans believe that about 3,000 of their Moslem residents would commit terrorist acts to further the al Qaeda cause. The Germans also noted that there were 24 active Islamist groups in the country, with about 31,000 members altogether.

Since then, the numbers have changed a bit. The number of Moslems in Germany, it seems, was underestimated. Because of illegal migration there are over four million Moslems in the country. Because Islam is not big on getting along with non-Moslem cultures, the Moslems in Germany do not integrate as quickly. The children do not take advantage of educational opportunities as much as, say, non-Moslem migrants from East Asia or Eastern Europe. Thus Islamic conservatism and radicalism has become more popular and persistent. But at the same time, groups like al Qaeda are less popular (mainly because of how many Moslems these Islamic terrorists have killed). But the potential for Islamic terrorism in the German Moslem population is still there, and it is potentially much more likely to be lethal and thus more dangerous than the anarchists.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close