Yesterday, the authorities in Hamburg, Germany closed Masjid Taiba, apparently a favoured place for radicalising young men among Muslim extremists of the Salafi trend. The troubling development is not the closing of a mosque by governmental authorities, I’m sure this has happened before in Europe and most likely to happen again (it is the norm in the autocratic states of the Middle East). It is the fact that Muslims from different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds were welcomed to this mosque, preached to in several languages probably, yet sent on their way with a single purpose, Jihad.
This type of multi-ethnic radicalization is new in Europe, showing the ability of preachers to tap into the angry Muslim sentiment that stems from the seemingly hostile actions of the West to Muslims around the world. This will not be the last time we hear of this sort of radicalization, and a new strategy must be devised that encourages mainstream and moderate Muslim preachers and thinkers to seize the initiative and moral high ground from the extremists.
Prisons in the UK have become a good breeding ground for extremist ideology, mirroring what has happened in Iraq and the Middle East in general. The al-Qaeda in Iraq movement was able to recruit many new members in prison and the rhetoric of certain anti-state clerics further encouraged angry young men to launch violent attacks against the people and the state. The link to prisons is important because either the Muslim chaplain that attends to prisoners himself helps to radicalize inmates, or the leaders among the inmates driving forward extremism are students of an Imam on the outside who preaches a violent ideology.
Closing mosques is not a solution, not even a treatment, since the ideology can be preached from a new location. The trend among the younger generations of Muslim immigrants has been of increasing religious observance, political awareness and activism. This looks set to continue, and governments are only able to control and appreciate the overt security aspect of combating extremism, such as monitoring preachers, denying visa/residency to them, closing mosques, etc. There is a need for Muslims themselves to look at the religion deep and hard, see what the real attraction of the message is and then being confident enough to say that Islam is a religion of peace, even when the louder voices are saying Jihad.