Foreign Affairs

Europe's Angry Muslims


Radical Islam is spreading across Europe among descendants of Muslim immigrants. Disenfranchised and disillusioned by the failure of integration, some European Muslims have taken up jihad against the West. They are dangerous and committed—and can enter the United States without a visa.


Fox News and CNN's Lou Dobbs worry about terrorists stealing across the United States' border with Mexico concealed among illegal immigrants. The Pentagon wages war in the Middle East to stop terrorist attacks on the United States. But the growing nightmare of officials at the Department of Homeland Security is passport-carrying, visa-exempt mujahideen coming from the United States' western European allies.

Jihadist networks span Europe from Poland to Portugal, thanks to the spread of radical Islam among the descendants of guest workers once recruited to shore up Europe's postwar economic miracle. In smoky coffeehouses in Rotterdam and Copenhagen, makeshift prayer halls in Hamburg and Brussels, Islamic bookstalls in Birmingham and "Londonistan," and the prisons of Madrid, Milan, and Marseilles, immigrants or their descendants are volunteering for jihad against the West. It was a Dutch Muslim of Moroccan descent, born and socialized in Europe, who murdered the filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam last November. A Nixon Center study of 373 mujahideen in western Europe and North America between 1993 and 2004 found more than twice as many Frenchmen as Saudis and more Britons than Sudanese, Yemenites, Emiratis, Lebanese, or Libyans. Fully a quarter of the jihadists it listed were western European nationals—eligible to travel visa-free to the United States.

The emergence of homegrown mujahideen in Europe threatens the United States as well as Europe. Yet it was the dog that never barked at last winter's Euro-American rapprochement meeting. Neither President George W. Bush nor Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice drew attention to this mutual peril, even though it should focus minds and could buttress solidarity in the West.


The mass immigration of Muslims to Europe was an unintended consequence of post-World War II guest-worker programs. Backed by friendly politicians and sympathetic judges, foreign workers, who were supposed to stay temporarily, benefited from family reunification programs and became permanent. Successive waves of immigrants formed a sea of descendants. Today, Muslims constitute the majority of immigrants in most western European countries, including Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, and the largest single component of the immigrant population in the United Kingdom. Exact numbers are hard to come by because Western censuses rarely ask respondents about their faith. But it is estimated that between 15 and 20 million Muslims now call Europe home and make up four to five percent of its total population. (Muslims in the United States probably do not exceed 3 million, accounting for less than two percent of the total population.) France has the largest proportion of Muslims (seven to ten percent of its total population), followed by the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and Italy. Given continued immigration and high Muslim fertility rates, the National Intelligence Council projects that Europe's Muslim population will double by 2025.

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