UK Study for EU Commission on Recruitment and Mobilisation for the Islamist Militant Movement in Europe
October 7, 2008
Recruitment and Mobilisation for the Islamist Militant Movement in Europe
A study carried out by King's College London for the European Commission (Directorate General Justice, Freedom and Security).
This research was commissioned by the Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security of the European Commission. We gratefully acknowledge the encouragement and support received from Commission officials, especially André Rizzo, Hans-Christian Jasch and Angela Liberatore.
The project was carried out by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) at King's College London with the help of the Centre d'Études et de Recherches Internationales (Paris) and the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (Madrid).
The authors of this report are Peter R. Neumann and Brooke Rogers. It draws on contributions from Rogelio Alonso (Spain) and Luis Martinez (France).
The final version of this report was submitted in December 2007.
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ICSR King's College London 138-142 Strand London WC2R 1HH United Kingdom Phone: +44 207 848 2065 Fax: +44 207 848 2748 Email: [email protected]Executive Summary This report presents a comprehensive overview of the methods through which Islamist militants in Europe mobilise their supporters and find new recruits. It finds that Islamist militant recruitment efforts have largely been driven underground, with little overt propagation and recruitment now occurring at mosques. Prisons and other ‘places of vulnerability' continue to be a great cause of concern. Rather than ‘radical imams', who have lost some influence, the report points out that ‘activists' are now the ‘engines' of Islamist militant recruitment. They often draw on recruits from so-called ‘gateway organisations' which prepare individuals ideologically and socialise them into the extremist ‘milieu'. It also shows how Islamist militants skilfully exploit young Muslims' identity conflicts between Western society and the ‘cultural' Islam of their parents. Furthermore, the report highlights the role of the Internet which has come to play an increasingly important role in Islamist militant recruitment, either in support of ‘real-world' recruitment or in entirely new forms of militant activism described as ‘virtual self-recruitment'.
The reports finds there to be clear differences between countries in Southern Europe, where Muslim immigration is recent, and those in which the second and third generation of European Muslims is reaching adolescence. In countries with no second or third generation of European Muslims, language is less of an issue, nor is the conflict of identity between Western society and traditional culture as pivotal. Across all countries, however, the environment in which Islamist militants seek support has changed. Especially after the attacks in Madrid and London, open recruitment has become difficult. The authorities and many Muslim communities have become more vigilant and willing to confront extremism, yet there are no indications at all that the pressure of radicalisation has ebbed away. Based on these observations, the report argues that the trend towards ‘seekers' and self-starter groups will continue. It also predicts that, given the constraints now faced by Islamist militants in the ‘open' environment, the significance of the Internet as a ‘virtual' recruitment place will grow, with new forms of Islamist militant activism becoming more important.
The report proposes a series of measures aimed at countering recruitment. In the short term, governments need to prevent the emergence of ‘recruitment magnets' which allow ‘seekers' and ‘selfstarters to find ‘links to the jihad' and deepen their involvement in the Islamist militant movement. Governments also need to pay urgent attention to the situation in European prisons, which are likely to become major hubs for radicalisation and recruitment. Intelligence and law enforcement strategies have to be geared towards identifying the ‘activist' leaders of cells. The report challenges governments to tackle the problem posed by gateway organisations, and to be clear and consistent in doing so. It also calls for more attention to be paid to extremist activities on the Internet. In the longer term, mainstream Muslim communities need to be re-vitalised and empowered. Law enforcement agencies need to build and/or re-establish trust with Muslim communities. It is also vital for schools to address the narratives used by violent extremists as well as the ways in which they are likely to be drawn into their circles. A similar effort is required on the Internet.
The report concludes by saying that even longer term measures aimed at resolving the drivers of recruitment will not bear fruit unless the causes of radicalisation are successfully addressed.