In late September 2014 American officials admitted that at least a hundred American Moslems had gone off to fight for ISIL (al Qaeda in Iraq and the Levant). Apparently only about a dozen Americans are there now and most of the hundred identified American Moslems have not made it to Syria yet. Some have returned and a few have sort of disappeared. That is, no one really knows where they are at the moment, or at least the FBI was not revealing many details. This is to be expected in situations where intelligence operations are still under way. What is interesting is the revelation that so few American Moslems could be found actually going to, or trying to, join ISIL. Some 3,000 European Moslems have apparently gone to Syria to join ISIL since 2013. There are believed to be about 2,000 European Moslems fighting in Syria or Iraq right now and about ten percent of those who have gone to fight for ISIL have been killed. Hundreds have returned so far and some of these jihad (Arabic for “struggle”) veterans often seek out new recruits. These jihadis are very effective at attracting new volunteers. As small as the number of actual Islamic radicals there now are in Europe, a far larger number (over ten percent) of European Moslems will admit to admiring the goals and methods of Islamic terrorists. Most of those who did go to Syria are now more radicalized than when they left and police fear they may contribute to more Islamic terrorism in Europe. You can’t do much to these men unless they actually commit a crime in Europe, although in some countries it is possible to prosecute them for fighting for an Islamic terrorist organization anywhere. But you have to prove it in court and that is difficult. Nevertheless such prosecutions are underway and most countries monitor returning jihadis, ready to make arrests if any local laws are broken.
There is much less pro-ISIL sentiment among American Moslems, but still enough to generate some interest among a few young Moslem men. A small but growing number of new converts, who encountered Islam while in prison and were radicalized there as well, are now free and talking enough about jihad and Islamic terrorism that they are being detected and monitored.
In Europe efforts are being made to prevent more men from joining ISIL but that is difficult because Moslems have not adapted well in Europe and have a lot more problems doing so than other immigrants. In part this is because European nations have a much harder time accepting and integrating migrants than the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In part that’s because these four nations are largely composed of migrants or descendants of migrants. There are still problems but as the saying goes in the U.S., “we’re all minorities here.” European nations are less accepting of outsiders and citizenship is not automatically conferred on anyone born there. Ancestry counts for much more and it is difficult for immigrants, even those who speak the language like natives and have absorbed the local culture to become citizens. Despite that, most migrants still want to be accepted.
Moslem migrants have an additional problem because their religion does not really accept being a religious minority anywhere. Many Moslem clerics agree that non-Moslems must convert eventually and radical clergy sanction the use of force to make that happen sooner rather than later. To help this along radical clergy depict the non-Moslem majority as inherently hostile to Islam and constantly trying to get Moslems to abandon their religion. In Islamic theology conversion to another religion is not allowed and in some Moslem countries such conversions are banned by secular law, often under pain of death.
This rebellious and militant attitude is particularly popular with many young Moslem men. This sense of victimhood makes it easier for young Moslem men to become criminals. Thus in France, where ten percent of the population is Moslem, over 60 percent of the prison population is Moslem. Thus efforts by parents to keep their children from joining Islamic radial or terrorist organizations tend to fail. The wayward child can justify his criminal ways by referring to Islamic scripture and Islamic clerics who preach acceptance of radical Islam. This has been a problem with Islam, even in Moslem majority nations, for centuries.
What does change the attitudes of some radicalized Moslem men is the reality of Islamic terrorism. Thus the popularity of Islamic radicalism everywhere took a big drop in 2007 when the majority of Sunni Moslems in Iraq turned against it because Islamic terrorism there was killing far more Moslems than non-Moslems. Even al Qaeda leadership noted this development and had tried to get the Islamic terrorists in Iraq to sharply reduce the number of innocent civilians they were killing. Unwilling to do so, al Qaeda was defeated in Iraq and has been rebuilding mainly because Iraqi nationalists insisted that all American troops, including the intelligence and special operations units that so effectively identified and destroyed al Qaeda leaders and specialists, leave the country in 2011. Iraq now wants some of those specialists back and that is slowly happening.
For centuries the non-Moslem world ignored Islamic terrorism, at least as long as it remained a dispute just among Moslems. But in the 1970s a new idea arose among radical clergy who began blaming the West for all the backwardness, bad government and general misery in Moslem nations. That’s when al Qaeda decided to take the war to the infidels (non-Moslems). This produced growing violence against Western targets in the 1990s and culminated in the September 11, 2001 attacks. The carnage of those attacks was immensely popular among Moslems, although most Moslem governments condemned it. That was in part because these attacks against infidels were an indirect effort to overthrow Moslem governments that radicals did not believe were Moslem enough. That struggle continues and while many Saudi citizens still send cash and sons to al Qaeda, Saudi Arabia is very much opposed to al Qaeda. But there are over a billion Moslems and even if one in a thousand supports Islamic terrorism that’s a million potential recruits for ISIL.