Muslim Reality |

TBC Staff

Nov. 21, 2005

While America has been looking elsewhere, the war on terror has rapidly been shifting its direction [Excerpts]

"This is the beginning of the war!" a French Muslim boy called out in the middle of the riots in Le Blanc Mesnil, just north of Paris.

But is it? Or was the war really going on already?

Few Americans have heard of him, but in Europe, more and more are becoming familiar with the name -- and the ideas -- of Dyab Abou Jahjah, founder of the now-international Arab European League (AEL) and the Muslim Democratic Party. Handsome, charismatic, well-educated, and multilingual, he has the perfect makings of a political leader, or perhaps better said, a man poised to lead a revolution. And he knows it.

More to the point: as the fury of Muslim youth explodes across the landscape of Western Europe, it's time that others know it, too.

The AEL, first founded in Belgium in 2000 -- in other words, before September 2001 -- now has branches in the Netherlands and France, and intends to spread across the E.U., with plans to participate in future European Parliamentary elections as the Muslim Democratic Party. With battle cries like "Whatever Means Necessary" and frequent condemnations of America, Jahjah -- who called the 9/11 attacks "sweet revenge" -- recruits Muslim youth to spread his ideology, a vague series of ideas that occasionally appear moderate, but when added together, call for violent resistance, the destruction of Israel, and the introduction of Sharia (Islamic) law in Europe.

Most recently, Jahjah issued a public statement supporting Iranian president Ahadi Najad's declaration calling for Israel to be wiped off the face of the map. "The foundation of Najad's reasoning is intellectually defendable," he writes in English (the statement in its entirety can be found here) "and despite the fact that his regime is no perfect example of political morality, I argue that his position on this matter is the only possible moral one." (Ironically, the man slain filmmaker Theo van Gogh once called "a pimp for Allah" continues his rant with mention of a "mythical racial-religious holy promise by some god in some religious book" -- by which, of course, he means the Torah. Despite such statements, Jahjah repeatedly insists he has "nothing against the Jews.")

I've thought a lot about Jahjah the last few days: Jahjah who never condemned the killing of van Gogh by a Dutch Muslim fundamentalist; Jahjah who finds the destruction of Israel "the only possible moral" option; Jahjah who has on several occasions incited riots on the streets of Antwerp and now defends the ongoing rioting of Muslim youth outside of Paris. I've thought of Jahjah as Muslim youths riot, too, in Arhus, Denmark, presumably in protest against the publication in a national newspaper of a cartoon drawing of Mohammed.

I've though of Jahjah in all of this because his influence on European Muslim youth -- men and women ages 18-30, mostly -- has been significant enough that the Dutch intelligence service traces the rise of Muslim anti-Semitism and extremism in the Netherlands in no small measure straight back to the AEL.

And I think of this fact every day lately as I walk the streets of my mostly-Muslim neighborhood: because suddenly, now, as an American Jew, if I normally wore a star of David or a chai around my neck, after Jahjah's declaration I would be too frightened to be seen with it on the street.

This is what is going on outside of Paris and in Arhus, in Brussels and Berlin, even as I write. This is what goes on when the AEL holds meetings — closed to non-Muslims -- in Rotterdam or Brussels, stirring whatever vulnerability, whatever latent anger (and what adolescent boy hasn't some of that? Then multiply it by poverty and alienation and see what happens) he can touch in the hearts of his audiences. Individual by individual, they become a group: they find the identity, the unity, the belonging that they crave, within that group: they become an "us," and the rest of us, of course, are "them."

This, too, is how it worked in Clichy: there was nothing spontaneous about these eruptions, officials announced after a week of ongoing chaos, a week of arson and shattered windows and a woman set on fire. "It was a good excuse," one 15-year-old boy in Clichy-sous-Bois told the New York Times, "but it's fun to set cars on fire." In Arhus, demonstrators said they'd been planning their uprising for weeks -- possibly, that is, even before the paper published the cartoons. (That a group of suspected Danish-Muslim terrorists were arrested in Denmark at around that time may or may not be relevant.) And though Abou Jahjah does not appear to be a part of the French or Danish fury as he was three years ago in Antwerp, he supports it.

There is, however, another side of this story. Recently, reporters from the Dutch newspaper de Trouw interviewed Faysal Ramsis, one of several young men who have taken on the task of turning their compatriots away from the radicalization that has here become so chic, so ultimately cool. The son of Moroccan immigrants, Faysal was forbidden to attend the mosque as a child because, as he told the Trouw, his parents feared he'd be "indoctrinated."

"Whether you go to a traditional Moroccan mosque, with a barely educated imam, or a radical, activist mosque, it makes no difference," they told him. "In the one case they keep you dumb; in the other, they make you aggressive."

Only later, while trying to understand the conflicts between the Dutch natives and Holland's Muslim population, did he begin visiting mosques to discover for himself what actually went on there. And what "went on," he told the Trouw, was, indeed, indoctrination: That Satan would creep under your fingernails if you didn't cut them, that women should be repressed, and animosity toward "unbelievers." Now, via his two web sites (both in Dutch) -- and — he works to change these impressions -- and to assure those who feel as he does that they are not alone.

Because while America has been looking elsewhere, the war on terror has rapidly been shifting its direction. No longer are the dangers restricted to the caves of Bora Bora, but have filled the streets of European capitals. And if we start paying closer attention to what happens there -- and only on those very streets of those same European cities -- can the war -- and peace -- be won (