Thursday, March 10, 2005

Steven Emerson Interview: Militant Islam Misleads and Endangers Europe, U.S.

This from the Counterterrorism Blog

In November, Investigative Project Executive Director Steven Emerson spent a week in Berlin as the guest of the American Academy and gave briefings to German policy and government officials. Mr. Emerson was interviewed by the German newspaper "Die Welt" about the terrorist threat posed by radical Islam in the West, and in particular the problems the West has in confronting it. In it he noted that Western countries have acted against the threat only after a violent act, such as the 9-11 attacks in the U.S., the Madrid train bombings, or the Van Gogh murder in the Netherlands. He stressed that the conflict is "not necessarily with Islam as a whole - but with the militant Islam." He called for a multi-step process for defeating Islamic terrorism, including "academic centers for the moderate Islam," and he predicted a long war against the enemy. The full text is below.

"The West needs blood on its streets"!
Not until then will they comprehend the danger from militant Islamists, according to terror expert Emerson

By Dietrich Alexander and Jacques Schuster
Die Welt
November 26, 2004

DIE WELT: Are there differences between the US and Europe in how they treat terrorism?

Emerson: My experience is that the German secret service knows of the danger the terror organizations and especially the militant Islamic groups' cause. They also know that several groups are trying to mislead the secret service by claiming to be moderate, but in reality are following their radical agenda. In the US you won't find radical groups operating openly - they propagate Jihad (holy war) secretly. Therefore, society is not aware of the problem, their militant ideology that dominates in certain institutions. The debate revolves around the same problem: Who is really a moderate Muslim, what is a militant Islamist, what should the balance be between a free expression of opinion and a gag order.

DIE WELT: Do the Europeans need their own 9/11 in order to understand the dangers they are exposed to?

Emerson: The western society needs blood on its streets before they will recognize the problem. The attack in Madrid and the assault on the Dutch film director Theo van Gogh caused a significant reaction. The mood in the last 3 weeks has changed. There is no doubt that every country that becomes a victim of an attack is more aware and mobilized. I have noticed a distinct discrepancy between the political establishment and the criminal prosecution by the secret police. The French, Scotland Yard, the BND know the threat. But the politicians are still idle or think they can sweep it under the rug. They trust that they can negotiate matters; but you cannot negotiate with these people.

DIE WELT: Is the Huntington's thesis of "Collision of Civilizations" already reality? Is this the European front of the conflict?

Emerson: Huntington's thesis is vehemently criticized, especially by American politicians who would never admit that there is a conflict with Islam. The fact is, the conflict is here, not necessarily with Islam as a whole - but with the militant Islam. This conflict did not start with the attacks on 9/11, but started in the mid 90's with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. We are dealing with a group of people who believe in violence.

DIE WELT: Is that the Islam in general or just the Arab mentality?

Emerson: There are authentic moderate clerics, but there is a problem in the West in dealing with the issues of the militant Islamists or the militant Islamic fundamentalists. They hide behind the contention that it does not exist and therefore circumvent the moral responsibility to condemn it. How can one proceed against the militant Islam without giving the impression to the Muslims that one is going to war against Islam? The Iraq war is viewed as a war against Islam. The extremists interpret everything as an attack on Islam. I am not sure that we can change the public opinion in the Muslim world. We must get the Muslims in the western world to the point where they will adhere to our rules.

DIE WELT: Are you expecting more involvement of the moderate Muslims?

Emerson: The European governments and the American government should encourage the moderates to come forward and to punish the militant clerics - instead of legitimizing them. The British government had recently invited a well-known radical Muslim cleric (Yousef Al Qardawi) to London; the mayor of London gave a reception in his honor. That is an outrage. This man propagates suicide missions, legitimizes the beating of women by their husbands, has condoned the death penalty for homosexuals, is against secularism and claims that the Jews and crusaders are their enemies. In the same breath he affirms to be moderate and is looking for a dialogue. The west is being deceived.

DIE WELT: You wrote about the Jihad in America. How concrete is an attack on Europe - on Germany?

Emerson: I don't doubt that Germany should fear an attack. What happened in Madrid and in the Netherlands was not specific to these countries. There is a European fundamental Islamic movement, imbedded for years, some in second and third generations, that is very dangerous. The Europeans have thought for years the Islamic groups collect money, recruit members and commit their attacks somewhere else. That is coming back to bite them now. If there are no significant changes made and the Islamic schools remain without any supervision, then Europe will have serious security issues within the next 20 years that they cannot handle unless they resort to anti-democratic political means.

DIE WELT: So the multi-cultural society is ruined?

Emerson: Multiculturalism was originally the recognition of other cultures as part of pluralism. According to our understanding western values should dominate a multi-cultural society. Some people in the US call this racism. That is ridiculous. The Dutch who are known to be tolerant against intolerance now realize the shortcomings of the social discourse. Multiculturalism has absolutely failed. If every other culture is like your own - there are no divisions.

DIE WELT: What is the alternative?

Emerson: First one has to hunt down those who broke the laws - terrorists. Then we need better central intelligence work and exchange of information. Thirdly a "sugar coating" and "whip" politics. Encouragement and reward for the moderates; political punishment for the radicals. These are short-term solutions. In the long-term we need academic centers for the moderate Islam.

DIE WELT: Has the Iraq war deactivated the situation or is the danger of terror attacks heightened?

Emerson: The threats to the US and the western targets would not have decreased if the Iraq war had not happened. Anger and hate toward the US are deep rooted and are the backside of colonialism in a religious garb. The Muslims consider themselves victims and that feeling is being used politically. It is a modern day battle that produces and supports hate.

DIE WELT: Is Osama Bin Laden playing a role or are the terror cells autonomous?

Emerson: I don't believe that he is involved operationally. Today, we have a Europe without borders. For instance, there is no pure Spanish terror cell, the terrorists can travel freely. Besides there is a new leadership that does not need orders from Aiman Al Zawahiri (Bin Laden's second in command and #2 of Al Qaida. Die Welt) in order to build new cells or perpetrate new acts of violence.

DIE WELT: Are we at the beginning of a war against Islamic terror? How long will it last?

Emerson: First of all it will get worse before it will get better, because we in the west have reached a "critical mass" of radicals. I suppose that this conflict will take a long time. It will slowly simmer, with long breaks and occasional outbursts.
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