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Irish jihadists will return as dangerous men

REPORTS that some 30 Irish Islamist fighters are using this country as a base will come as no surprise to those tasked with monitoring Islamic fundamentalism throughout Europe.

In 2006, a leading Muslim theologian in Ireland, Dr Shaheed Satardien, warned that the failure of Muslim leaders to convince their youth to integrate fully and embrace their Irish identity would lead to dislocation and radicalisation.

It now appears that his fears have come to pass. If the Islamic community in Ireland, or a sizeable minority of it, ignores its leadership and fails to integrate, that cultural vacuum will always be filled by the allure of fighting for a 'noble cause'.

We in Ireland should be particularly aware of this, seeing how many of our young men were attracted down through the years by notions of misplaced patriotism tinged with adventure into fighting for various causes.

Ireland is far from being alone in having to deal with this dilemma of misplaced loyalties in the Muslim community. The UK, France and many other European countries have much larger numbers of native-born Muslims willing to go and fight in what they feel is indeed a noble cause.

leadership

In Ireland, however, the smaller number means we are in a better position to combat this threat. But this cannot and will not be done by the security services alone.

There needs to be a greater buy-in by the Islamic community to the idea of being partners with the State. By this I mean a buy-in into creating an identity that maintains the Islamic tradition but meshes with the values and mores of modern Irish society.

A model for this could be Irish-American society. Although very strong in their cultural and familial links to Ireland, Irish-Americans are noted too for their loyalty to the United States.

But in recent decades efforts had to be made by both the US and Ireland to change the culture of Irish-America from supporting terrorism.

Ted Kennedy, Tip O'Neil and Daniel Moynihan were but a few of the Irish-American cultural and political leaders who led their supporters away from supporting terrorism.

We now need to see Irish-Islamic Ted Kennedys being more vocal in making their voices heard. If they need an incentive, it should be this: the saving of the lives of their young men who willingly wish to sacrifice themselves on the altar of jihad.

While there is a justified worry about the security threat to the State and our European partners from young Muslims coming back from the Middle East determined to wage jihad in their home countries, many will not come back.

Many will end up being used as cannon fodder by IS, 
willing lambs to the slaughter, used to advance the power-hungry notions of caliphate by the former Sunni 
officer corps of Saddam's army. Be under no illusions: despite the recent publicity about the alleged young English jihadist executioner of James Foley, the majority of European Muslims who go to fight in the Middle East or Afghanistan are treated with contempt.

Their so-called native-born brothers consider their western Muslim counterparts to be soft and not true Muslims.

Much like the young men lured with the siren call of patriotism to the Western Front of World War One, the young Muslim jihadists have no real idea what awaits them on the battlefields of the Middle East.

SNEERED

In my work abroad I have spoken with many who have encountered these western jihadis. They attest to how poorly prepared the Westerners are and how they are privately sneered at by others for their naive beliefs.

Often they are given the worst equipment and the barest of training as they will not survive long enough on the battlefield to be of much use.

However, we must also be aware that those few that do survive this cauldron in the Middle East will come back to Ireland and Europe changed and dangerous men.

Declan Power is a former 
soldier now working as a security and defence analyst


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