International Conference: European Jihadists

Date of event:

The international conference entitled “European Jihadists” organized by the Prague Centre for Transatlantic Relations (PCTR) and International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at IDC College in Herzliya took place on 19th March at the CEVRO Institute. The event focused on one of the most serious threats for European security. 

Dr. Ivan Langer, the former Interior Minister and current Chairman of the Board of the CEVRO Institute, opened the event. Mr. Tomas Pojar, Vice President of the CEVRO Institute, made short opening remarks and hosted the conference and following discussion. The other distinguished panelists were Dr. Azeem Ibrahim (American War College & The Scotland Institute, UK), Professor Assaf Moghadam (Academic Affairs, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism, Israel) and German journalist Yassin Musharbash (Die Zeit).

Mr. Pojar mentioned that it might be surprising that the recruitment of new jihadists is more successful in smaller European countries. “The public believes that large numbers of jihadists come from France, Great Britain or German, but the truth is that if we compare the population, smaller countries are taking the lead – Belgium, Scandinavia, Kosovo, Bosnia or former USSR countries and also Russia. Quite a large number of jihadists come from Turkey,” said Tomas Pojar. He added that there are some 20 thousand people with foreign passports among the jihadists.

Dr. Azeem Ibrahim spoke about the ways how to stop radicalization of European Muslims. “It is necessary to treat the cause of terrorism, not the result. We need to give a chance to Muslim community to wipe out Islamism. The best way to fight terrorism is education,” said Dr. Ibrahim.

Professor Moghadama focused on various types of terrorist groups and models of their cooperation. He stated that the nature of terrorism is changing and a new type of actors is emerging. “The rule is not only that the groups cooperate. Sometimes, they are even supported by a particular state. ‘State terrorism’ is reality,” explained the expert. 

Mr. Yassin Musharbash based his speech on real stories of Europeans who left their countries to fight for Islamists. He gained this information from public sources – for example various social networks and websites. The respected journalist also introduced his findings about motivation of young Europeans who joined Islamists. “The motivation is often unclear. Many Islamists don´t know anything about Islam or Koran before they leave. Sometimes, it is not about the ideology, but much more about some kind of teenage rebellion or naive desire for adventure,” he said. 

Mr. Musharbash added that the society should not fear Muslims and their religion, because traditional Islam and its knowledge presented by real Islamic scholars is the most powerful weapon against Islamists. “Traditional Islam is not our enemy. Some of the Islamic scholars decided to de-radicalize the radicalized youth using traditional Islam,” explained Mr. Musharbash. “It is hard work, but they can achieve results we may never get,” he said.

The seminar was followed by an inspiring discussion.

We would like to thank our media partners the Embassy of the State of Israel in the Czech Republic, Czech-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, eretz.cz, shekel.cz and reviewed journal Defense and Strategy.

The program of the conference is available here and photo gallery here.