The Islamic State has engaged in the systematic destruction of churches in the territories it has held, but churches are attacked and often burned as a matter of routine in other Arab and Muslim countries, which are struggling, despite the efforts of their rulers, to protect their Christian minorities. The extremists also destroy mosques that don’t share their radical views and have targeted them in hundreds of attacks within the framework of jihad.
In light of these attacks, Europe’s voice has barely been heard. Due to their desire to maintain political correctness, European governments have failed to stand in defense of Christian and other communities in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, out of fear they will be perceived as enemies of Islam.
It’s interesting to note that radical Islam has found a partner in the form of the neo-Nazi far-right, whose members are behind hate crimes against Jewish synagogues, but also against Muslim mosques, the most recent case being in New Zealand. In the Israeli context, these two camps are joined by the far-left, which is flooding Europe with a tidal wave of anti-Israel and antisemitic sentiment.
Jihad, however, made its way to European shores a while ago. It has been reported in recent years that in France alone, many churches have been attacked by extremists, the majority of them Muslim. The authorities in Europe are silent on this too. They apparently believe the most effective way to contend with extremism and terrorism is to ignore and contain it, in the hope that it will simply disappear.
The question of Europe’s approach to radical Islam has resurfaced in the wake of the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, one of France’s most important historical and religious symbols. The reason for the blaze is still unknown, and it could be that a technical mishap — the site was under renovation — was behind the fire.
Yet it was fascinating to see the outrage in Europe toward anyone who hinted at the possibility of arson, perhaps by extremists. No one is allowed to suggest this possibility, despite the track record of church attacks. This is also the approach, particularly in France, to any terrorist attack that takes place on the continent, where the jihadist aspect is blurred and disregarded.
Europe still believes that burying its head in the sand is the best way to cope with the challenge posed by radical Islam, but time and again we see that denying the existence of a problem doesn’t solve it.
We can assume the problem will only worsen in light of Europe’s failure to absorb the waves of Muslim immigration to the continent. These immigrants currently represent less than five percent of the entire population of Europe, but that could spike due to low natural birth rates among native Europeans. And the ratio of Muslims in some large European cities, such as Paris or Brussels, is already around 20 percent or higher. An effort to absorb these immigrants and accommodate them across the continent — while also fighting radical Islam with determination — is the order of the day, but in Europe, no one is ready to acknowledge this challenge, let alone tackle it.
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. A version of this column first appeared in Israel Hayom.