The Corner

National Security & Defense

In Europe, Muslim Refugees Recruited to Radical Islam

In response to The News Story I Least Want to Read

In my weekend column on the controversy involving refugees from Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East, I explained that even if our government had access to the background information necessary to vet them (it doesn’t), we would still be inviting a national security catastrophe for two reasons: (1) we vet for the wrong thing (i.e., only for whether the immigrants have known connections to terrorist groups, not whether they are adherent to Islamic-supremacist ideology), and (2) the main issue is not whether refugees are already terrorists but whether they are likely to become terrorists after they get here.

This should be common sense, and it is in most of America outside of Washington. But perhaps even the Beltway can take notice of today’s Wall Street Journal report on how the current tide of Muslim refugees is drawn to Islamic-supremacist mosques and vulnerable to recruitment by jihadist groups:

The Paris attacks have raised fears of terrorists slipping into Europe by posing as refugees. But in Germany, the top migrant destination, security officials have another worry: Local extremists will recruit the newcomers to join the Islamist cause once they arrive.

German authorities warn that migrants seeking out Arabic-language mosques in search of the familiar are increasingly ending up at those attended by Islamist radicals. In interviews, security officials from Berlin to the southwest German state of Saarland said they have registered a sharp rise in the number of asylum-seekers attending mosques they believed attracted extremists.

Federal officials said they have counted more than 100 cases in which Islamists known to them have tried to establish contact with refugees. According to state and local agencies across the country, Islamists have offered migrants rides, food, shelter and translation help. In some cases, they have invited them to soccer games and grill parties, or brought them copies of the Quran and conservative Muslim clothing.

“They start by saying, ‘We will help you live your faith,’ ” said Torsten Voss, the head of the German domestic intelligence agency’s Hamburg branch. “The Islamist area comes later—that is, of course, their goal.”

Security officials across Germany describe the potential radicalization of migrants, still entering the country by the thousands every day, as a challenge that adds to Europe’s existing security threats. With Germany expecting to take in roughly one million asylum-seekers from the Middle East and elsewhere this year, authorities are scrambling to prevent new pockets of radicalism from forming.

The report goes on to explain that Middle Eastern Muslims, especially when they immigrate in droves to the West, bring with them the features of their Islamic societies, including anti-Semitism and enmity of Israel. It adds that the capacity of countries like Germany to induce assimilation into European society is limited.

Furthermore, the report illustrates why the challenge is not so much to find out which immigrants are currently terrorists but to keep out people who could become terrorists: Young Muslim immigrants are steered to mosques that the police and intelligence services know to be hot-beds of radicalism, and, under Western free speech principles that Islamists exploit, it is not against the law for Islamic supremacists to entice young Mulsims into jihadism. As the story relates:

[A] Berlin security official said the authorities were registering with alarm the rising numbers of refugees at the Al Khalil mosque, as well as two others in Berlin that are seen as meeting points for fundamentalist Muslims.

The city distributed a 16-page pamphlet to migrant-shelter workers earlier this month flagging those three mosques and alerting aid workers to the risk.

Islamists may “take advantage of the refugees’ emotional situation to influence especially young people ideologically, to build ties to them ideologically, and in the worst case to incite them to acts of violence,” the pamphlet says.

Security officials said that because fundamentalist Muslims approaching or recruiting migrants generally aren’t breaking any laws, the best they can do is to keep a close watch on extremist networks and to ask workers at shelters to be on the lookout….

In Saarland, on the French border, intelligence officials have long had an eye on several mosques they say attract followers of the fundamentalist Islamic strain known as Salafism. Officials noticed in early September that newly arrived migrants were increasingly frequenting those mosques, [domestic intelligence official Helmut] Albert said.

Mr. Albert said that migrants now attend Friday prayers at those places of worship in numbers ranging from 50 to 200 per mosque—sometimes accounting for half the faithful in attendance. The migrants appeared to be going to those mosques simply to hear sermons in Arabic and talk to Arabic-speaking locals, he said. But in the long run, he said he worried they might become susceptible to the more fundamentalist ideology of other worshipers. “We’re watching to see whether, over time, the refugees start going there not only because the sermons are in Arabic but because they’ve joined the movement,” Mr. Albert said in an interview.

The wave of migration is exacerbating a problem that has vexed German security officials for years: how to deal with fundamentalist Muslim preachers who they suspect play a role in radicalizing youths but don’t appear to be breaking laws in doing so.

The entire report is well worth reading … and carefully considering.

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