Terrorism is a weapon of the weak. Today the world faces a complex, significant threat beyond terrorism and that is radicalisation within the societies of Europe, Middle East and South Asia.
These views were shared by the director of the Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi, Professor Dr Uzma Shujaat, on Tuesday while delivering her welcome speech at the inaugural session of a two-day conference, titled ‘Countering Radicalisation and Terrorism in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia in the wake of international migration – moving towards peace and harmony’.
The ambassador of the European Union, Jean Francois Cautain, the keynote speaker at the conference, said that Europe faced more casualties in the 1970s and 1980s due to its own terrorist factions like Irish Republican Army.
“We have to focus on the root causes of terrorism and radicalism and should not associate it with any particular religion. It is the responsibility of EU to promote peace beyond its borders.”
“In the context of terrorism I am glad to see an improved situation in Pakistan,” said EU Head of Delegation in Pakistan Jean Francois Cautain. He said that it was very important for Pakistan and Afghanistan to conduct serious, sustained dialogue to jointly identify real possible, practical, peaceful ways forward.
The EU had a sizable Pakistani community in Europe, which was also under stress due to the rising radicalisation in Europe and the world, he said, adding that the EU recognised that radicalisation and terrorism did not stop at borders.
He stressed the need to cooperate at the EU-Pakistan level, at bilateral levels between Pakistan and the countries of the EU, and at the international level. Focusing on the progress going on between the EU and Pakistan, Cautain said that the EU was working with the Pakistani government through NACTA and with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
“Pakistan is a key partner of the EU in its global counter-terrorism strategy. Europe witnessed terrorism from non-Muslim sources 40 to 50 years before the present situation.”
He mentioned that there was the Red Brigade in Italy, extremist in UK, (Ireland), IRA, Germany, France and other countries. Sometimes 400 people were killed each year in the 1970s by terrorists.
Practically, he stated, the EU had created a network of 2,300 scholars, specialists, professionals, police to study the challenge of radicalisation and terrorism.
Earlier, the vice chancellor of Karachi University, Professor Dr Mohammad Ajmal Khan, said the youth had been the “engine of change”, and if radicalisation and terrorism were to be defeated, the educational institutions should perform their positive role and foster the values of tolerance, harmony and respect for diversity.
He mentioned that the main actors of change were educators, civil society, religious institutions and mass media.
Later, the first paper of the first working session was read by Dr Dietrich Reetz. He spoke on political contestations over Muslim minorities and migrants in Europe and how European policies on integration, migration and counter-terrorism strategies could be reconciled.
He asserted that terrorism and radicalisation enhanced by the terrorist attacks by global actors and the local radicals tried to cash the migration flow to radicalise Muslims in Europe. He talked about the triangle of migration, terror threats and nationalist resurgence that European governments had been forced to navigate with more or less success.
“The Muslims across Europe face multifaceted challenges that range from their status of arrival to the political environment of their destined country. Their fate greatly depends on the viability of the liberal order.”
Dr Severine Minot spoke on ‘From Immigrant Crisis to Migrant Integration: Steps towards Anti-Discrimination Policy of the EU’. She said that the recent surges of irregular entries into the EU, and the cumulative inflows of immigrants and asylum seekers, particularly refugees from Syria among other countries, brought the issue of their “national, cultural, economic and political integration” to the forefront of European policy and media debates.
“Refugees constitute a high need and high visibility segment of the population, which is often at the receiving end of racist, ethnic and religious discrimination.”
Munazza Nargis Kazmi presented a paper on the spread of EU-wide far right politics and its repercussions. She said that the politics of far-right parties in Europe emphasised the centrality of nation state.
She mentioned that many European countries were experiencing the rise of extreme/far-right political beliefs in their socio-political arenas. Discussing the politics of far-rights, she said that there were 14 parties in the EU Parliament but due to their differences they were unable to make a strong bloc at the EU level.
Last year, she said that the far-right parties of different member states formed coalitions in the European Parliament, which was dominated by the integrationist forces. It provides a useful platform to the FRPs to raise their voice for a nationalist Europe at the EU level. However, she claimed that it had a limited impact because the parliament had 751 members with a clear majority of Christian democrats and the socialists.
“The real challenge is on national ground where the right-wing approach is gaining public prestige, especially after the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks in Europe. It might push the EU to revise its policies to harmonise with the emerging trends in Europe.”
The second session was on ‘Managing the Crisis in the Middle East’ and the first presenter was Zeenia Sadiq Satti. She spoke on rising instability in the Middle East and how to contain the spillover effect.
“The foreign interventions in the Middle East after the terror attacks in the United States of America in September 2001 has contributed to the rising instability in the region. Wars produce the same as refugees pour into nearby areas of peace and tranquility, seeking safety from bombs for themselves and their children.”
She claimed that the refugee spillover from the Middle East had produced crises in Europe. However, it was not the refugees per se who were the problem. She asserted the problem was caused by the inability of the host governments and the international community to deal with the exodus in a coordinated and constructive manner.
Professor S. Gülden Ayman from Turkey spoke on ‘External and Internal Complexed Politics of the Region: Repression and Resistance Needs Solutions’, and Najmuddin Sheikh, former foreign secretary, and former ambassador Shahid M Amin presided over the morning and the afternoon sessions of the international conference, respectively.