Europe faces major challenges in confronting extremist groups that pose a great threat to peace, security and coexistence on the continent.
There are some negative effects of the practices of extremist groups on the political, social and humanitarian levels, and there is a need to confront them through dialogue, education and integration.
Incidents of violence and terrorism targeting civilians and institutions have increased, such as the attacks in Paris in 2015, Brussels in 2016, Berlin in 2016, Barcelona in 2017, Strasbourg in 2018, Christchurch in 2019, Hanau in 2020, and Vienna in 2020.
Spread of hate speech
These attacks left victims and material losses, sparking a state of fear and anxiety among citizens, as well as the spread of hate speech and incitement by some leaders of far-right parties, such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen in France, and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany.
This discourse sows hatred and hostility between different communities, encourages exclusion and discrimination against immigrants, Muslims or minorities, and also negatively affects the values of democracy and freedoms in Europe.
There has been a destabilization of trust between different societies in Europe, especially between Muslims and others, as some Muslims feel that they are targeted, marginalized, or considered suspicious by the authorities, the media, or society, while some non-Muslims feel that Muslims are unassimilated, disloyal, or a threat to their identity. This leads to separation, fragmentation, and conflict between communities.
It also undermines coexistence and integration between different communities in Europe, especially between immigrants and indigenous people.
Some immigrants face difficulties in integrating into their new societies due to the lack of educational, employment, or social services opportunities, while some indigenous people see immigrants as a threat to their culture, religion, or economy, which leads to schizophrenia, alienation, and frustration among communities.
Extremist groups in Europe have negative security impacts on the continent in terms of inciting strife and hatred among various components of society, and destabilizing security and peace by carrying out acts of violence and terrorism.
Syrian political analyst Mohsen al-Atrash said it is not possible to confront extremism in Europe without joint efforts by all concerned parties, whether at the governmental, societal, regional or international levels, and these efforts must be based on the principles of respect for human rights, democracy and pluralism, and they must target the roots of extremism, its causes and effects.
Atrash stressed in a statement to the Reference that European governments, at the governmental level, must take effective measures to control their borders and protect their citizens from security threats, as well as control the activities of extremist groups and thwart their plans. Governments must also strengthen integration policies for Muslims and immigrants in European societies, guaranteeing their right to freedom of belief and worship while combating discrimination and Islamophobia.
“At the societal level, European societies, with all their components, must work to promote the values of tolerance, coexistence, and dialogue between different religions and cultures, and confront speeches of hatred and incitement that spread strife and violence,” he said, adding, “Muslim societies in Europe must also present a true image of Islam and its teachings, contribute to development and peace in Europe, and stay away from extremism.”