A few months before murdering four people at a Jewish Museum in Brussels on May 24th, a French Muslim named Medhi Nemmouche had been released from prison and had already joined the Islamic State (at the time, called ISIS).
Nemmouche had left the Museum unmolested and was identified only by images from surveillance cameras. He was arrested two days later in Marseille during an anti-drug check, where it was discovered that he was about to take a boat to Algeria. He had with him his weapons and a black flag of the Islamic State.
The French police knew exactly who he was. Despite everything, he had not been placed under close surveillance.
Nemmouche will be tried in Belgium, where he faces a sentence of life imprisonment -- but life imprisonment in Belgium and France means a maximum of twenty-two years. He will not spend twenty-two years in prison. He will likely earn an early release for good behavior. Almost all prisoners in Belgium and France are released for good behavior. That he is a repeat offender and has been convicted seven times for robbery and assault will not be held against him: in Belgium or France, recidivism is theoretically considered an aggravating circumstance but is almost never taken into account in the judgments issued by courts.
In prison, he will join the company of people who share his ideas, and he will be able to join jihadi networks.
In Belgian and French prisons, a large majority of the inmates are Muslims, many of whom are radical; and jihadi networks are ubiquitous.
When he leaves prison, he will most likely join the Islamic State again, if he wants, and if the Islamic State still exists.
Nemmouche's path resembles that of another French Muslim, Mohamed Merah, who killed three French soldiers and four Jews in the Southwest of France in March, 2012. Merah, like Nemmouche, had also served several sentences in prison and had joined Islamic organizations, although in Afghanistan, not Syria. He, too, came back ready to kill, and he killed.
The French police also knew who Mohamed Merah was. And he was also not placed under close surveillance.
The main difference between Merah and Nemmouche is that Merah chose to die in a police shootout. Because of the way he died, Merah became a hero for many young European Muslims.
At the time of the Merah case, against all evidence, the French government had put forward the "lone wolf" theory and officially dismissed the idea of jihad, although there were arrests in Islamist circles.
When Nemmouche was arrested, the French Interior Minister used more courageous words: he spoke of "jihadi networks" and of "problems" in the French prison system. He added that 700 French youths were in training camps in Syria, and could come back at any moment. The Belgian authorities used similar words.
These mentions of jihad and "problems" in the prisons were steps in the right direction. The problem is that there will almost certainly be no further steps.
Gilles de Kerchove, the EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator, recently said that there are, in fact, more than 700 French Muslims presently waging jihad in Syria. Available data show that there are also many Belgian Muslims, and many Muslims going to Syria from the rest of Europe. Belgian security services have estimated that the number of European jihadists in Syria may be over 4,000. Entire European fighting units seems to have been created.
The leaders of the French and Belgian do not have any real ways of implementing and managing better security or keeping track of suspects -- even those likely to take action. These leaders do not even try to restore order in prisons. Government leaders currently preside over financially battered countries, mired in sclerosis, stagnation, wretchedly controlled immigration, and the perverse effects of redistributive social welfare systems that only multiply the poor and destroy jobs -- the side effects of multiculturalism. They have neither the will nor the resources to cope with all the costs that would be involved.
They know that if they tried to do something, they would soon be faced with riots in the (mostly Muslim) "no-go zones" scattered throughout the outskirts of most cities.
They know that they would have to hire thousands of police and to consider using the army.
French politicians fear mass riots in the violence-prone suburban "no go zones" that surround major cities. In this photo, a car burns in Sèvres, France, during the 2005 riots. (Source: WikiMedia Commons)
They know that they would soon face extremely reluctant and extremely hostile judges: judges in Belgium and France are permanent and irremovable civil servants, and the majority of them are wedded to economic ideas based on the redistribution of wealth. Their policies are anti-growth, do not afford people any economic opportunity, and are what created these crises in Europe in the first place. The United States seems to be following these thoroughly failed policies as well. The main union of magistrates in France, "Syndicat de la magistrature", is close to a neo-communist organization, "le Front de Gauche".
The governments' leaders know that they would have to confront "anti-racist" organizations fully dedicated to the fight against "Islamophobia": powerful and well financed Islamic lobbies, imams in key mosques, and most journalists in the mainstream media.
The governments' leaders also know that they would have to run the risk of losing elections. In the major cities of Belgium and France, the Muslim vote has an increasing weight. Brussels, the city where Medhi Nemmouche murdered, is now 30% Muslim. Roubaix, the city where he was born, is 60% Muslim. The number of cities where the Muslim population is a majority continues to rise.
The governments' leaders know that what is happening in France and Belgium can be found to varying degrees in all European countries, and that the problem that overwhelms them is really a European problem.
Government leaders in all major European countries know that hundreds of well-trained European jihadists are in Syria and that some of them will return. They do not ignore that some are already back in Europe and that attacks are likely. They do not ignore that if European jihadists are in the hundreds, those who support jihadism in Europe are probably in the tens of thousands. In recent demonstrations in support of the "Palestinian cause" all over Europe, flags of Hamas, Hizbullah and the Islamic State were abundant, and slogans explicit.
Governments in all major European countries do not ignore that many of the countries they lead are in financial dire straits, faced with sclerosis, stagnation, wretchedly controlled immigration, policies that retard economic growth, and the results of multiculturalism.
They do not ignore that many prisons in Europe are jihadi hotbeds, and that (mostly Muslim) no-go zones are proliferating.
They do not ignore that risks of riots are very real, and that judges under the influence of ideas that for a hundred years have been proven not to work -- in Russia, Cuba and everywhere -- nevertheless still serve everywhere in Europe.
They cannot ignore the existence in every European country of "anti-racist" organizations and Islamic lobbies, imams and journalists, almost exactly similar to those which exist in France and Belgium.
They cannot ignore the growing weight of Muslim votes in many parts of Europe.
They can break up some networks, thwart some attacks, symbolically strip some jihadists of their citizenship.
They know they are largely hostage to a situation they no longer control.
Their attitude is dictated by the fear of being confronted with more serious problems than murders: some European counter-terrorism services say that a Mumbai-style armed attack in Europe is possible, even probable.
The attitude of governments can be defined by a word often used to describe the attitude of Daladier and Chamberlain in 1938: appeasement.
The victims of Merah and Nemmouche were Jews. European politicians say they are ready to protect Jews living in Europe, but they are scared of offending those who attack Jews. They enunciate verbal condemnations of "anti-Semitism", but they deliberately ignore the Islamic nature of almost all anti-Semitic acts in Europe today.
European politicians see that those who commit anti-Semitic acts closely associate hatred of Jews and hatred of Israel. They seem to think that if they say that "what happen in the Middle East has to stay in the Middle East", that it will. They deludedly seem to think that if they harshly criticize Israel while saying that the Jews of Europe have nothing to do with Israel, they will avoid outbursts that are even worse. They seem unable to see that social media exist and that what happens in the Middle East does not stay in the Middle East. It leads them to make implicit distinctions between "good" European Jews who see nothing, hear nothing, shut their mouths and behave as "genuine European citizens", and "bad" European Jews who dare to speak of Islamic hatred, express sympathy for Israel and behave as "troublemakers."
Articles denouncing "bad" Jews may be found in major newspapers and magazines. Christophe Barbier, director of the French weekly L'Express recently wrote that French Jews who are worried about the rise of Islamic anti-Semitic acts are "paranoid". He added, a bit surreally, that those Jews who leave France are "traitors" and followers of "Beelzebub". In another article in the same magazine, French Jewish organizations were recently accused of playing an important part in the rise of anti-Semitism in France by being "too close to Israel". Does anyone ever get criticized for being "too close" to North Korea, Russia or Iran?
Since the beginning of the Gaza conflict, European leaders have directed their nastiest remarks against the Jewish State. None of them has asked why Palestinian organizations in Gaza put their stockpiles of weapons in hospitals, homes, schools and mosques, or their command and control centers at the bottom of large apartment buildings or underneath hospitals. None of them has even said that Hamas is a terrorist organization, despite its genocidal charter. Faced with the horrors in northern Iraq, only three European countries -- France, the United Kingdom, and Germany -- decided to provide limited humanitarian aid and deliver military supplies to Kurdish forces. The other countries cautiously abstained.
A few days ago, British PM David Cameron expressed concern that the Islamic State could become strong enough to "target people on the streets of Britain", but added that he was not considering military intervention. That the man who savagely beheaded James Foley on camera spoke with an East London accent prompted British authorities to search for his identity: the beheading was immediately considered a criminal case, not a barbaric act of war.
The murder of Lee Rigby, on May 22, 2013, was considered a simple criminal case: the judge who sentenced the two killers said that the "extremist views" they both expressed during the trial were a "betrayal of Islam". In the European media, the Islamic State is now defined as a "terrorist organization", never as an Islamic organization. Saudi Arabia's grand mufti recently said that "the Islamic State is the enemy of Islam". Many European newspapers immediately ran headlines obediently repeating what he said. In mainstream European newspapers, Hamas is never defined as Islamic or even terrorist; and is called a "resistance movement".
European Jews perceive the smell in the air, and many of them are packing their bags. Seeing that journalists may call them "traitors" and followers of "Beelzebub" does not inspire them to change their minds.
Europeans who are neither Jewish nor Muslim perceive that the situation is rapidly becoming extremely unsafe and unstable. They also feel, with good reason, that their political leaders are not telling the truth.
Recent polls show that in almost every European country, a large majority of the people is pessimistic, expects the worst, and feels a deep lack of trust in politicians, governmental institutions and the media. Recent polls also show that in most European countries, an even larger majority of the people rejects and loathes Islam. Xenophobic parties are on the rise.
In Reflections on the Revolution in Europe, published in 2009, Christopher Caldwell noted that "Europe could not stay the same with a different population in it". He added that any debate in Europe on the impact and dangers of Islam is impossible because "violent Islamists intimidate and threaten". He also added that the demographic trends and the rise of radical Islam in the Middle East do not indicate that the situation will improve. Five years later, it is clear that he was right.
Europe is heading towards an increasingly uncertain future. Debates on the impact and dangers of Islam are even less possible today than five years ago. Demographic trends are irrepressibly moving in a direction that is Muslim. Radical Islam in the Middle East and in Europe is rising ever more rapidly, with no one lifting a finger to stop it.