Rabat - As Moroccans came under the spotlight after the terrorist attacks in Spain earlier in August, many major Western media sources, including The Guardian, have published their takes on the issue of radicalized Moroccan youth in Europe.
Rabat – As Moroccans came under the spotlight after the terrorist attacks in Spain earlier in August, many major Western media sources, including The Guardian, have published their takes on the issue of radicalized Moroccan youth in Europe.
Some acknowledged that the fringe of radicalized Moroccan youth in the old continent is not representative of the Moroccan community as a whole, and pointed to Morocco’s effectiveness in countering terrorist groups like as ISIS as well as its security cooperation with European capitals. However, the the British news outlet instead rushed into a hasty and weak argument, claiming that Morocco poses a mounting threat to Europe due to the apparent return of hundreds of ISIS fighters into the country.
Writing for The Guardian, Martin Chulov said that 300 fighters are believed to have returned to Morocco, quoting an anonymous former ISIS leader, who said that these fighters will seek using “the proximity of Spain to launch attacks, or infiltrate further into the continent.”
Further, the article claimed that North Africa, “long feared as a breeding ground for extremists […] is now increasingly being seen as a launchpad for attacks on Europe to avenge Isis’s loss of land and personnel.”
The Breeding Grounds of Europe
A reader of Chulov’s article comes away with the impression that Morocco is a serious menace to Europe. Yet, nothing could be farther from the reality on the ground.
As a Moroccan official who spoke under the condition of anonymity told Morocco World News, Europe is suffering from problems of radicalization of its Muslim youth, and the reasons for this situation are both complex and diverse.
He pointed to the fact that a lot of Muslims feel “marginalized” in their European societies, unable to see a bright future ahead.
“Lack of of an efficient policy to manage identity, cultural, and religious issues and mounting racism and xenophobia,” coupled with the rise of right-wing groups and social challenges like unemployment and failure in education. All of this contribute in driving these youth to delinquency, criminality, and radicalization. Such marginalized youth become easy recruits for extremist groups, even in prisons.
“Because of the identity crisis these young people are suffering from, they turn to mosques controlled by radical Islamist groups,” he said.
Despite originally having hailed from Morocco or elsewhere in North Africa, these young people are nonetheless European, said the Moroccan official. They grew up, lived, and studied in Europe.
Many who were involved in carrying terrorist attacks in Europe were former gang members who held European nationalities, such as the French Kouachi brothers, the Belgian Brahim Abdeslam, and the suspects of the Spanish terrorist cell behind the Barcelona attack.
Driss El Ganbouri, a Moroccan specialist on Islamist groups, told MWN that the article’s claims were exaggerated, particularly in presenting the return of those fighters as a collective “exodus.”
“In recent years Morocco has arrested many of those returning fighters. Morocco has put a security plan to face this phenomenon,” he said, instead saying that the biggest threat for Europe is the return of its own ISIS fighters to their home countries.
“These fighters might exploit gaps in the coordination between European countries in terms of surveillance, detention of suspects, a lack of strong and quick tools of information sharing, or division over whether to arrest suspects when there’s no concrete evidence,” El Ganbouri explained.
The expert on Islamist groups noted that this dysfunction showed itself in the terrorist attacks that hit France, Belgium, and Spain, where “the perpetrators crossed European borders without being arrested or being informed on,” something which was acknowledged by European media sources.
Imbalance and Generalizations
In addition to the misplaced argument, the way the article was written also raises questions. The piece is made of off-the-record statements by a so-called former ISIS leader, who was cited as unmediated truth, without questioning their accuracy or even giving proof of their credibility.
Further imbalance comes from the omission of Moroccan security services’ successful dismantling of terrorist cells and arrest of terrorism suspects in both Morocco and Europe, an initiative which has been recognized and praised by French and Spanish authorities.
The article also made a sweeping generalization, talking about North Africa as a single bloc when it comes to terrorism threat and security situation.
The British media outlet put all countries of the region in one basket, making it look as if Morocco, where security services have been successful in countering terrorism threats even more that several European countries, is exactly the same as Libya, where the post-2011 toppling of the Gaddafi regime resulted in a security chaos that allowed extremist armed groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda to flourish.
The generalized, misinformed, and dubious claims of the article, in its attempt to portray Morocco as a dangerous hotbed of terrorism, end up missing the mark, distracting from the larger issue of home-grown European terrorism.
“Instead of getting into the logic of accusations about the sources of terrorism in Europe, one should strengthen Moroccan and European security and judiciary cooperation,” said the Moroccan official.