The Rumi hosted Dr. Johan Leman to discuss his studies entitled, “At the intersections migration, religion and extremism: pluralism in today’s EU” on May 3rd, 2016.

MAY 3, 2016 12:00 PM

The influx in refugee populations within cities and countries throughout Europe has changed the perception of many localized cultures therein by Europeans who had been more accustomed to largely homogeneous communities without a great degree of foreign influence. Many migrants have been attracted to Wahhabism and other forms of Salafist-oriented fundamentalism in Europe due to large-scale investment from Saudi Arabia and gulf countries. There are now many instances of conversions from European individuals to Islam. Jihadists have been so successful in Europe in large part because many who are drawn to its extremist narrative are non-practicing Muslims who feel alienated from the rest of society in addition to those involved in drug dealing and other illicit criminal activities.

Innovative and well-executed filmmaking and media online has captivated much of the younger generations and emboldened extremist sentiments, introducing them to terrorist organizations and aiding the recruitment efforts thereof. Recruitment comes mainly from 2nd and 3rd generation European Muslims who do not speak to young adults about Islam, but more so about employment, state-sponsored discrimination, lack of economic opportunities, etc.; these recruitment efforts are not interested in devout Muslims but rather alienated youth lying within the “grey area” of society.

Disaffiliated from family and friends, these individuals find acceptance in a smaller network of radicalized individuals that is reinforced by an expansive online community of radicalized social media groups and networks of individuals around the world. They are promised a good husband, a family, and a new beginning for these individuals who see little hope for a better future in the environment of which they have been raised. People see themes of public welfare, brotherhood, and a new beginning in a radicalized environment that groups like ISIS help to facilitate. Online videos produced by these organizations downplay the brutality of their tactics and presents a world rooted in the Qur’an and virtuous living guided by a puritanical variation of Islam. According to Dr. Leman, Jihadism will be a problem not only for Syria, but successive countries in the Islamic world so long as the online presence and recruitment efforts aimed at marginalized Muslims continue. Many of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe (i.e Paris, Brussels) were likely orchestrated by individuals based in Syria as the alleged perpetrators do not seem to be capable of carrying out an attack of that magnitude and complexity. The contacts between European and Middle Eastern governments are becoming increasingly close as the West becomes more reliant upon local authority to regulate extremist activity

Dr. Johan Leman holds a PhD in social and cultural anthropology, MA in philosophy, MA in eastern philology and history, K.U. Leuven (Catholic University of Leuven) (Belgium) and an MA in theology (exegesis Old Testament). Emeritus Professor in social and cultural anthropology at the Faculty of Social Sciences at K.U. Leuven. He taught ‘Migration and Minority Policies and its Anthropological Implications’, ‘Ethnicity and its Application at Mediterranean Cultures’, ‘Interethnic Majority-Minority Relations in Europe’, ‘Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology, and Criminological Issues’ and ‘Anthropology of Religion’.

He also guides Ph.D. research multiculturalism, interethnic relations, border and boundary crossing (conversion studies), Mediterranean cultures. He is the former Chief of Cabinet of the Royal Commissioner for Migrant Policy in Belgium, former Director of the Federal Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition Against Racism, former and first chairholder of KU Leuven GCIS: Gulen Chair for Intercultural Studies and the President of Foyer, a regional minority center in Brussels.

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