Islamist enclaves in European cities are a bigger problem than the infiltration of trained jihadists from the Middle East.
German investigators have named a Tunisian refugee, Anis Amri, as the jihadist whom they suspect carried out Tuesday’s mass-murder attack. Amri is believed to be the man who drove a truck through a Christmas festival in Berlin, killing twelve and wounding four dozen others in an atrocity reminiscent of the attack in July, when 86 people were killed at a Bastille Day celebration in Nice.
Notwithstanding that they arrested and held the wrong man for several hours, it turns out that German authorities have been well aware that Amri posed a danger. He is yet another of what my friend the terrorism analyst Patrick Poole has dubbed “known wolves” – Islamic terrorists who were already spotlighted by counterterrorism investigators as likely to strike.
Amri, who is variously reported to be 23 or 24, arrived in Germany in July 2015 as an asylum-seeker. He was able to remain because of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s suicidal open-door policy for refugees from the Muslim Middle East and North Africa. Prosecutors in Berlin attempted to deport Amri back in June, after learning three months earlier that he was planning “a serious act of violent subversion.” He is reportedly a follower of Abu Walaa, an Iraqi sharia-supremacist firebrand who was recently arrested on suspicion of being a top ISIS leader and recruiter in Germany.
His terrorist activities aside, Amri has also been involved in narcotics trafficking, theft, and the torching of a school. That last felony occurred in Italy, where the “refugee” was sentenced to five years in prison before being welcomed into Deutschland. All that baggage, and still the Germans allowed him to remain. Reportedly, officials felt they could not deport him because he did not have a passport and the Tunisian government would not acknowledge him (despite the fact that the Tunisian government had convicted him in absentia of a violent robbery). That might explain a brief delay in repatriating him; it does not explain a legal system that permits a suspect with a lengthy, violent criminal record to remain at liberty while he is suspected of plotting mass-murder attacks.
Tuesday’s atrocity highlights an aspect of the refugee crisis to which I have been trying to draw attention for over a year: The main threat posed by the West’s mass acceptance of immigrant populations from sharia cultures is not that some percentage of the migrants will be trained terrorists. It is that a much larger percentage of these populations is stubbornly resistant to assimilation. They are thus fortifying sharia enclaves throughout Europe. That is what fuels the jihad. It would be foolish to think it couldn’t happen here, too.
To be sure, the infiltration of trained terrorists is a huge problem; even a small percentage would compute to thousands of jihadists within the swarms of migrants. Alas, that is a secondary concern. The bigger threat is the enclaves.
These are not merely parallel societies in which the law and mores of the host countries are supplanted by Islamic law and Islamist mores. Even residents who are not jihadists tend to be jihadist sympathizers – or, at least, to be intimidated into keeping any objections to themselves. That turns these neighborhoods into safe havens for jihadist recruitment, training, fund-raising, and harboring. They enable the jihadists to plan attacks against the host country and then elude the authorities after the attacks.
In short, the jihad succeeds not just because of the jihadists, but primarily because of the swelling, assimilation-resistant communities. They are the incubators.
Recall the horrific November 2015 Paris attacks, in which 130 were killed. The atrocities spurred what was said to be a tireless transcontinental manhunt. When Salah Abdeslam, one of the main culprits, evaded capture for four months, it was assumed that he must have made his way to Syria, rejoining his ISIS confederates.
But in mid March, he was captured in Belgium, just a few paces from his family home in Brussels’s Molenbeek district. He had been moving with relative ease from safe-house to safe-house.
Belgians were not surprised to hear it. Molenbeek is a notorious Islamist enclave. As the Independent reported, the neighborhoods there are a “magnet for jihadists,” and the community, home to many Moroccan and Turkish immigrants, “has been connected to almost all of Belgium’s [several] terrorism-related incidents in recent years.”
Belgium does not admit that it has so-called no-go zones, where Islamists challenge the authority of the host country to govern. German officials similarly pretend the problem does not exist. But Gatestone Institute’s superb analyst Soeren Kern recently published a jaw-dropping report, “Inside Germany’s No-Go Zones,” part one of which focuses on North Rhine-Westphalia. It is Germany’s most populous state, and it just happens to be where Anis Amri lived – in housing set aside for asylum seekers.
Kern observes that the German press has identified more than 40 “problem areas” across the country. The newspaper Bild describes parts of Berlin, Hamburg, and elsewhere as “burgeoning ghettos, parallel societies and no-go areas.” The Rheinische Post reports that numerous parts of North Rhine-Westphalia fall into this category:
Aachen, Bielefeld, Bochum, Bonn, Bottrop, Dorsten, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Euskirchen, Gelsenkirchen-Süd, Gladbeck, Hagen, Hamm, Heinsberg, Herne, Iserlohn, Kleve, Cologne, Lippe, Lüdenscheid, Marl, Mettmann, Minden, Mönchengladbach, Münster, Neuss, Oberhausen, Recklinghausen, Remscheid, Rhein-Erft-Kreis, Rhein-Sieg-Kreis, Solingen, Unna, Witten and Wuppertal.
How do these communities operate in practice? Kern relates:
The president of the German Police Union, Rainer Wendt, told Spiegel Online years ago: “In Berlin or in the north of Duisburg there are neighborhoods where colleagues hardly dare to stop a car – because they know that they’ll be surrounded by 40 or 50 men.” These attacks amount to a “deliberate challenge to the authority of the state – attacks in which the perpetrators are expressing their contempt for our society.”
If we are lucky, Anis Amri will be apprehended before long, and before he can strike again. It is entirely possible, though, that he will remain on the lam for some time. Like Salah Abdeslam and other jihadists, he is not without places to go.
And that is the crux of our challenge here at home. It is not just a matter of weeding out the trained jihadists from among the tens of thousands of refugees the Obama administration has already admitted, and the 110,000 more refugees for whose admission in 2017 the president has paved the way. The real problem is the thousands of assimilation-resistant refugees who will gravitate to and reinforce Islamist communities. They could form the breeding grounds and sanctuaries for the jihadists of tomorrow.
A version of this piece also appeared on National Review Online.