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Terrorism Set to Increase in Europe

Terrorism analyst Thomas Hegghammer predicts attacks will increase:


This article presents a ten-year forecast for jihadism in Europe. Despite reaching historically high levels in recent years, violent Islamist activity in Europe may increase further over the long term due to four macro-trends: 1) expected growth in the number of economically underperforming Muslim youth, 2) expected growth in the number of available jihadi entrepreneurs, 3) persistent conflict in the Muslim world, and 4) continued operational freedom for clandestine actors on the Internet. Over the next decade, the jihadi attack plot frequency in Europe may follow a fluctuating curve with progressively higher peaks. Many things can undercut the trends and lead to a less ominous outcome, but the scenario is sufficiently likely to merit attention from policymakers....

The last few years have seen historically high levels of jihadi activity in Europe. There has been a negative development on a range of indicators, including:

  • Deaths: Between 2014 and 2016, jihadi attacks killed 273 people, more than in all previous years combined (267).[1]
  • Attacks: In 2015 and 2016, there were 14 jihadi attacks, about 3.5 times more than the biannual average (6) for the preceding fifteen years.[2]
  • Plots: In 2015 and thus far in 2016, there were 29 well-documented attack plots, about 2.5 times more than the biannual average (12).[3]
  • Execution rate: In 2015 and 2016 about half of the serious plots reached execution, compared with less than a third in the preceding fifteen years.[4]
  • Foreign fighters: Between 2011 and 2016 over 5,000 European Muslims went to fight in Syria; about five times more than the number that went to all previous destinations combined.[5]
  • Arrests: Between 2011 and 2015, almost 1,600 people were arrested in jihadism-related investigations in the EU (excluding the UK); an increase of 70% compared with the previous five-year period.[6]

....The first macro-trend is that the main demographic pool from which European jihadis have historically been recruited, namely economically underperforming Muslim youth, seems to be growing. We know that the majority of European jihadis are young Muslim men of immigrant background from the lower half of the socioeconomic ladder. We do not yet know whether or not their economic underperformance has a causal effect on radicalization, but we know that a majority of them are drawn from this demographic. Tens of large-n studies have found European jihadis, as a group, to score worse than national averages on indicators such as education level, employment rate, and criminal conviction rate.[19]

We also know that the size of the European Muslim population is increasing as a result of immigration and relatively high (but declining) fertility rates. According to Pew Research, the Muslim population in Northern, Western and Southern Europe is set to increase with around 50% from 2010 to 2030, from around 25 million to 37 million.[20] The highest relative increase is expected in Northern and Western Europe, with a 98% and 45% increase respectively (3.8 to 7.5 million in Northern Europe, and 11.3 to 16.4 million in Western Europe). The share of the total population is expected to increase from 3.8% to 7% in Northern Europe, from 6% to 8.6% in Western Europe, and from 6.9% to 8.8% in Southern Europe.

Pew also projected the Muslim population in all European countries except the Balkans to have a male surplus in 2030, albeit a slightly smaller one than in 2010. Some countries such as the UK, Norway, Spain and Italy expect sex ratios of over 120 men per 100 women in 2030. The Muslim population is also generally younger than the non-Muslim population, and although the gap is expected to decrease slightly compared with today, the proportion of the European Muslim population under age 30 in 2030 is expected at around 42%, compared with 31% for non-Muslims. The Pew analysis was conducted before the refugee crisis in 2015, which brought around 1 million asylum seekers from Muslim-majority countries to the European Union, over 60% of whom were men under 35.[21]

Most important, we have good reason to expect the European Muslim population to continue to be economically underperforming on average. In most European countries, Muslims are the most economically disadvantaged major religious group.[22] This is likely the result of three factors: first, that many Muslim immigrants arrived with low education; second, that social mobility in the EU is generally mediocre (except in Scandinavia)[23]; and third, that there is documented anti-Muslim discrimination in the labour market.[24] Put more simply, many early Muslim immigrants entered the labour market as working class, and their children were not able to climb the social ladder. This situation is likely to persist, because first-generation Muslim immigrants continue to arrive with relatively low education on average, and there is little to suggest social mobility will increase or anti-Muslim discrimination will decrease in the EU in the coming decade. We therefore have good reason to believe that the number of economically disaffected Muslim youth in Europe will be larger in 2030 than today.

It strikes me as highly likely that the hundreds of thousands of young Muslim males who arrived in Germany in 2015 will present an even higher risk of terrorism than Muslims who've been here longer. Young Muslim males in Germany have not carried out successful terror attacks at anywhere near the rate of ones in France and Belgium, despite being "economically underperforming" to a certain degree. Most observers attribute that to the fact that the modal Muslim male in Germany is Turkish, not Arabic. Something about Turkish Muslims seems to make them less susceptible to radicalization in Europe than Muslims from other countries.

But of course the demographic composition of German Muslims has been permanently changed by the 2015 influx. There are now hundreds of thousands of new arrivals from Arabic countries, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Unlike longer-settled Turkish Muslims, these new arrivals don't know and will likely never learn German. They also don't have local families and communities to watch over them and worry about them.

And as we're seeing every single day, they are becoming bitterly disappointed at life in Germany. They "promised" jobs and apartments haven't materialized. Learning German is a hopeless task for most of them, and living without language skills is always a bitter pill. They're young and full of testosterone, but can't find girlfriends. In addition to the fact that they can't speak German and have no jobs or money, there's also the fact that so many new young Muslim males entered Germany in 2015 that they have created a significant gender imbalance in their age group. There are now way too many males 18-34 in Germany chasing the same number of females as there were in 2013.

Add to that the very real possibility that they have a higher than average rate of mental illness.

These hundreds of thousands of disaffected, alienated, frustrated young males in Germany will be easy pickings for Jihadists in the coming years. Unless, that is, the German authorities manage to deport them. I'm not holding my breath.