Friday, August 12, 2005

The sharp eye of Salman Rushdie

Let's talk again about what Europe can do in the fight against terror. Of course, the 15 million euro that Brussels put aside to better protect our public transport systems against assaults, is just an example. The total budget for these kind of research projects will increase to around 270 million euro in the next years. The question is not whether this is more or less than the member states themselves spend on the subject, but whether this is a task for the European Union at all.

I do think so, because "we" share a common interest, as Europeans are all running the same risks. To fund this kind of research together and thus increase the budget, is a more efficient way than inventing the wheel in every individual member state. Indeed much still needs to be done. Lately the European Parliament complained about the European efforts against internationally organized crime. But Europol shows in its annual report that it was not completely without success last year. For instance, it supported investigations into islamic terrorism in fourteen countries. The added value lies in the accumulation and analysis of information from all over the European Union.

Furthermore, to give priority to "a further search for underlying reasons for terrorism" is like telling firemen to look for the cause before extinguishing the fire. This does not mean that such a search is useless, on the contrary, but both should be done at the same time. And the answer for the underlying cause is only partly to be found in foreign politics. Iran is a perfect example. Though Europe has tried by way of dialogue to keep this country from manifacturing an atomic bomb, Iran is shamelessly continuing the process. Not to mention the facts of publicly hanging young homosexuals and refusing medical care to journalist Akbar Ganji, who is in jail for his fierce criticism of the regime. I feel we should condemn these practices more loudly. The US at least clearly stated that Ganji should be released immediately.

Therefore, I am not as optimistic as Thomas Friedman. Yes, the world is getting flatter, but on the other hand cultural gaps seem to be widening instead of closing. Internet is a place where very different kind of communities live. In the Netherlands, Mohammed Beyouri used the web to spread his sick, fundamentalistic writings, and he is no exception. So the real battle is between the values of traditional society, especially of the muslim fundamentalists, and those of the modern world. This is the view of Dutch writer Leon de Winter, who expresses them in his weblog (in Dutch). But Salman Rushdie, whose latest book (about the same theme) yesterday enjoyed its world debute in the Netherlands, also sharply points this out:

The deeper alienations that lead to terrorism may have their roots in these young men's objections to events in Iraq or elsewhere, but the closed communities of some traditional Western Muslims are places in which young men's alienations can asily deepen. What is needed is a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.