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European Muslims, a Problem That Won't Go Away

Woman_in_niqab,_Aleppo_(2010)USA Today is blasting a headline, More British Muslims fight for Islamic State than Britain, based on the fact that a conservative estimate suggests that 800 fighters for the Islamic State hold British Passports. It turns out that 600 Muslims serve in the British armed forces, which number 200,000. A separate article in The New York Times gives ballpark figures of 10 to 20 thousand as the number of fighters for the Islamic State overall. That means that 5 to 10 percent of the forces of the Islamic State are British.

There are about 2.7 million Muslims in the United Kingdom. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. That means 0.17% of the world’s Muslims are British. About 1 out of 600. Let’s say that 5% of the fighters for the Islamic State are British. 1 out of 20. British Muslims are represented at a 30-fold greater rate in the Islamic State than their world-wide representation among Muslims. Overall about 2,000 Europeans are believed to be serving in the forces of the Islamic State. About 20 to 45 million Muslims live in Europe (this is dependent on whether you’re talking about the European Union only, or include Russia). So at most 3% of the world’s Muslims are European nationals. But they make up 10 to 20 percent of the fighting forces of the Islamic State, depending on how you gauge the figures.

I review these numbers because I believe they are a place where we can start to grapple with the facts that confront us. It is easy to say “Islam is the problem,” but that is as informative as saying that all phenomena can be reduced to physics. That is true on some level, but it is useless in a practical sense. The gross over-representation of European Muslims is of interest, because if it was simply Islam then there wouldn’t be an over-representation. On flip side it seems hard to deny that Left multiculturalism which presupposes that accommodation and acceptance will serve as a balm against all separatist inclinations among Muslims simply is hard to support. Britain arguably is the most accommodating of European nations to Islam and the Muslim community, but it is contributing far greater than its quota to the forces of the Islamic State. These issues are complex, but they need to be confronted without qualms. The chickens are going to come home to roost soon.

Addendum: “European Muslims” includes a diverse array of individuals and populations. There are European ethnic groups which are historically majority Muslim, such as Albanians and Bosnians. Then there are the immigrant communities. And finally there are the converts.

• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Islamic State 
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28 Comments to "European Muslims, a problem that won't go away"

  1. Maciano says:


    The lack of assimilation by muslims differs a lot by ethnicity.

    Here in the Netherlands, muslims tend to come in a few groups; 1) Moroccans, 2) Turks, 3) Surinamese (mostly Javanese & muslim Indians), 4) other (Bosnians, Africans, refugees, converts). I’d wager 3 & 4 are almost never a problem. They’re too fragmented to organize, more socio-economically integrated and these people(s) seem to realize a ticket to Europe (except converts) was the best thing to happen to them.

    Dutch Turks tend to be like German Turks: small business owners or employed in low-paying jobs and/or unemployed, religious, show some problems with school drop out rates & crime; in general Turks are not very remarkable or problematic.

    Dutch Moroccans, however, are remarkable. And problematic. A significant part of Moroccan minority seems unable to integrate in liberal Western societies, like the Netherlands. They’re over-represented in Islamic radicalism, violent crime, school dropouts, etc. OTOH, Moroccans also succeed more than other muslim groups; football, entertainment, writing, social engagement figures, politicians, actors, comedians, etc. If Moroccans don’t succeed, they’re more likely to seek alternatives to get ahead, it seems.

    Tbh, I’ve astonished by the assimilation troubles of muslim immigrants for decades. I just can’t understand why they can’t see Islam is actually holding them back in status, prospects & everyday joys.

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