Reviewed by Norvell B. DeAtkine
Michael Radu, Europe’s Ghost; Tolerance, Jihadism, and the Crisis in the West. Encounter Books, New York, 2009, ISBN -13:978-I-59403-262-2, 773 pp., $35.00
The late Michael Radu was one of a fast disappearing class of intellectuals who could rightly be referred to as a renaissance man. Fluent in several languages, an insightful analyst of contemporary cultural trends, his baleful outlook on contemporary European trends is a cautionary tale for Americans. It is a book not only about the dangers of unchecked and aggressive political Islam taking root in Western civilization, but also the erosion of a once proud and dynamic civilization, retreating into tepid, effete, secular society valuing little other than a comfortable day to day existence.
He describes in painstaking detail the catastrophic consequences of political correctness bordering on the theater of the absurd. He describes the welfare system of the European countries that allows Islamist terrorists to plot their acts of terror in leisure, supported by the state welfare system, not only for themselves but their families as well It is a Europe in which Christianity can be (and is) disparaged and ridiculed but similar attacks on Islam are considered a racist hate crime. It is a Europe in which political asylum is granted a radical who was considered by Saudi authorities as a “religious extremist.” The reader is left to ponder the literal significance of accepting as a refugee someone considered too extreme by one of the most extreme religious states in the world.
The late Shah of Iran frequently spoke of the ‘unholy alliance of the black and the red,” referring to the perverse symbiotic relationship between the left and the religious fanatics. It is ironic but apparently lost on the cognoscenti of the Left that the first victims of a repressive Islamic regime will be them, as was the fate of the Iranian Leftists and communists who clamored for the return of Imam Khomeini from Paris to Iran. But the situation in Europe is not wholly different from the increasing problem of fitting Islamic values and beliefs into the secular American society. We have yet to deal with the attendant problems of promoting free speech versus the national security issues involved by easily inflamed Muslim communities- egged on of course by the Muslim extremists who dominate the Islamic cyberspace, control many mosques and intimidate much of the Muslim community. This issue surfaced spectacularly in the media frenzy surrounding the announced Qur’an burning in an obscure Florida church.
The author painstakingly details the path to radical Islamic jihadism by a number of convicted Muslim terrorists in Europe. Many were following a criminal path when recruited to “re-Islamization.” As has been illustrated many times by analyses of terrorist’s backgrounds, socio-economic status was not a compelling factor, but origins are. The socio-economic status of the Muslim Turks (many of whom are Kurds) is not significantly different from those of the North African and Pakistani immigrants but the overwhelming majority of the terrorists are from the latter group. Radu also takes issue with the “homegrown” theory of European radicalism; these terrorists act spontaneously in response to some perceived affront to Islam and have negligible links to world wide Islamic terror organizations. Radu disabuses the readers of the fallacy of this theory in reviewing the cases of the London Transport Bombers, would be bombers of German trains, and the murderer of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. All the terrorists in these cases had links to terror organizations.
A particularly interesting segment of the book is a critical analysis of the work of Norwegian researcher Petter Nester who examined the social structure of Islamist cells in Europe. Nester concluded that there are four general types of cell members: the entrepreneur, the protégé, the misfit, and the drifter. He defines the first two categories as acting out of devout idealism, while the misfits join to deal with personal problems, and the drifter is influenced of social networks and friends with strong personalities. But Radu asks why so many of the drifters, despite their lack of ideological commitment, would prepare to sacrifice themselves in suicide attacks. Radu believes the answer lies in two factors: the adherence to a version of Islam that gives unity to local and personal grievances, and secondly the strong conviction that only action and violence offer solutions. As an Algerian radical in London put it “ Bin Laden’s skill as an ideologue is to transform particular grievances into a universal struggle.” In the case of the second reason, one might notice the similarity to the “purification of violence” as advocated by the new left guru of the 60’s and 70’s Franz Fanon. In fact, in reading this book the picture of the earlier terrorists as portrayed by Eric Hoffer in his masterpiece The True Believer is an exercise in understanding that all totalitarian belief systems, be they communist, fascist, or Islamist, have many similarities. As Hoffer wrote in 1951:
For men to plunge headlong into an undertaking of vast change, they must be intensely discontented yet not destitute, and they must have the feeling that by the possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power. They must also have an extravagant conception of the prospects and potentialities of the future.
Norvell B. DeAtkine is a retired Colonel, a graduate of West Point with an M. A. from the American University of Beirut in Arab Studies. His extensive overseas service includes combat service in Vietnam, an assignment in Korea, and 8 years in the Middle East. Among his positions held were as an artillery battalion commander and deputy commander of a Corps Artillery. Following his military service he taught for 18 years as the director of Middle East studies at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.