A couple of weeks ago we posted a video of an interview with Professor Miklós Maróth, a Hungarian orientalist. The article below is a longer and more detailed interview with the professor on the same topic, originally published at 888.hu.
Many thanks to CrossWare for the translation:
Miklós Maróth: The Islamic State is already in Europe
Interview with 888.hu by Viktor Attila Vincze
The Islamic State can be defeated militarily in 2017, but it does not eliminate terrorism, declared Miklós Maróthi to 888.hu. According to the academic and orientalist professor, European leaders should be aware of the fact that the Islamic State is already is here in Europe, because a fully Islamic infrastructure has emerged around mosques. Although Europe has lost all religious and cultural backbone, the migrant masses are proudly Islamic.
888.hu: When will the war in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State end, which according to many has now partly widened out to a civilizational collision between Islam and the Christian world? Could 2017 be the end of the war and related terrorist attacks?
Miklós Maróth: We must not forget that in 2011, Western countries and some Sunni countries initiated the civil war inside Syria. Today, those countries who were responsible for the outbreak of civil war — are shedding crocodile tears — when they refer to the damage to humanitarian principles in Syria, in connection with the war. We are mainly talking about the United States, Britain and France, who ignored the results of the elections in Syria and wanted to achieve the overthrow of Bashar al-Assad. In addition to this, this was an intervention by Western countries, which the Middle East countries assessed as an attack by Christians, while Christianity in fact had nothing to do with this. As a consequence of the intervention, the Islamic State was established and a number of other extremist Muslim militant groups created, all of them then carrying out terrorist attacks. These groups in response then turned against the Christian world. These extremist groups will likely be defeated militarily by the allied forces in this year, but as a result the members of these groups will scatter. Because the motives driving these groups will not disappear at the end of the war, so these extremist Islamist groups in other forms or under other names can be expected to operate and will continue primarily to commit acts of terrorism if they have the opportunity. If they make it to Europe, they will carry out terrorist acts here.
888.hu: Will the occupation of Aleppo bring the possibility of settlement of the situation in Syria significantly closer? What settlement is expected, if Russia, Iran and Turkey are able to reach a peace agreement about the region?
Miklós Maróth: With the presence of the Russians, we must mention a rarely known fact, that historically they are the protectors of Christian communities in the Middle East. We must note the important circumstance that a Shi’ite government is in power in Syria. The Shi’ites were a minority, and without the Christians they could not stay in power. So when the Russians sided with the Syrian government, they actually just fulfilled their historical role and helped Bashar el-Assad. Based on the recent past, I can definitely say that the Russian military intervention in Syria was successful, with the result that they now managed to align with the Turks, who were previously fighting against Assad and the Iranians, but now support Assad, to combine their efforts to fight against the Islamic State. As a result of the success of the Russian military intervention, a change in the regional military and diplomatic power relations was shown, when at the end of December an international conference was held in Moscow to resolve the situation in Syria, and they did not invite the United States, and the Western States that had previously been in Geneva failed to bring together a similar conference. Only Russia and its allies Syria, Iran and Turkey have the necessary initiative and the ability to settle the conflict in Syria; the United States and its allies are no longer considered an indispensable force. Russian-Turkish-Iranian military and diplomatic cooperation now seems capable of clearing out the outskirts of Damascus and cleaning up Idlib province and ending the civil war. Every analysis shows that in the near future, when the Syrian army recaptures Aleppo, it will free up its forces to fight the Islamic state, Al-Nusra Front and their allies in the countryside. Compared to the fight in urban areas, in an open terrain the government forces have superior firepower over the rebels. This will result an even faster collapse of the radical Islamic rebel forces. To add to this, when the rebels were pushed out of Aleppo, their supply of weapons was cut off. In Aleppo there were some so-called moderate groups — as the Americans called them — but they actually only existed on paper. However, in Idlib province, to which the government forces are now turning, there have never been such forces, not even on paper, so the Western countries can no longer provide weapons on this front to the Islamic extremists. An interesting lesson from Syria is that those countries that believed they have the right to intervene in Syria’s internal affairs now have to confront the failure they achieved with a nearly seven-year war that they sparked off. Syria is in ruins, with four hundred thousand dead, seven million people displaced, three million people living abroad in exile — half the population of Syria is now homeless. For what happened, the makers of this conflict [Obama, Clinton, Kerry, Soros — translator] should assume responsibility, to face up to their conscience, if they were willing to do so.
888.hu: Turkey is a Sunni-majority country as well as a state that wants to recover its Ottoman superpower status, while at the same time being a NATO member. What role may it be seeking in the Syrian war, in Iraq and in the region?
Miklós Maróth: Turkey has a 30% Alawite minority; therefore the Turkish state has no interest in the existence of a Syrian state government run by Alawites in places such as its current Assad-led neighbor. But now it seems Turkey is more than willing to adapt to the will of the Russians, who have much stronger arguments in the military intervention in Syria. Turkey’s behavior in the region and its plans are heavily influenced by the presence of Kurdish rebel forces in the region. The Kurds are officially allies of the United States — for example, in Iraq in the siege of Mosul, they are involved with the Iraqi and US military forces, while in Syria they are being attacked by the Turks, who are also American allies. Turkey is as much an ally of the Russians against the Islamic State, as it is against the Kurds. The Turkish army is constantly attacking Kurdish armed groups in order to prevent the involvement of the multi-million Turkish Kurdish community in the creation of an independent Kurdish state. A Turkish-Kurdish conflict now appears to favors the central Syrian government, because the Turkish army is taking over the job of clearing out the Kurdish armed groups from the northern part of Syria.
888.hu: So the biggest losers in the peace process following the end of the fight against radical Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq will be the Kurds? What will happen to Kurdistan, which is now an arbitrarily proclaimed area in the north of Iraq, and so far not internationally recognized?
Miklós Maróth: In Northern Iraq there is an area of virtually full Kurdish control, which operates completely under their administration, and Turkey is not happy with its existence. However, with the current balance of power the Turkish army can only successfully attack the Kurdish forces in Syria. After defeating the Islamic State and the forces of the Al-Nusra Front, most likely Syrian government troops will immediately turn against the Kurds to take back the occupied areas from the insurgents. At this moment, however, it can’t be determined how long it might take, and what might be the final outcome of a military action against the Kurds, since the armed groups of the Kurdish rebels are considered to be a serious military power in the region. It is impossible to predict the extent and influence of the great powers or specific agreements, occasional regional interests, and even the future of the Kurdish autonomous area. One thing is certain: the states that historically have influence in the area would never by themselves contribute to the creation of an autonomous Kurdish area.
888.hu: After the war against the Islamic State, what would be the likely fate of the former combatants and their civilian supporters? Could the followers of the Islamic State possibly move towards the Islamic enclaves of the Balkans?
Miklós Maróth: Among the members of the Islamist rebel groups are many European, Chechen, Arab and other international adventurers of all different origins, the majority of whom at the end of the war will definitely have a place to go back to. At the same time, for the former combatants there are a number of Gulf countries and Turkey that are open targets for them, the states that funded the Syrian war. Those soldiers who have any background in Europe, will certainly come back to Europe, and are waiting for an opportunity to pounce somewhere in a terrorist attack. These ex-militants will reorganize their ranks to get ready for action as soon as possible.
888.hu: How much are the Balkans — which are very close to Hungary — threatened by Islamic extremism and terrorism?
Miklós Maróth: In the Balkans we can currently see a race between Sunni Islam and the fundamentalist alternatives. The Saudi Wahhabists, the Turkish-supported Hanafi ideological versions, both trying to expand there. Many from the Balkan joined the ranks of Salafist ISIS soldiers. Between the two Sunni trends, Salafism and Wahhabism, there is little distinctive difference. Historically the Wahhabist trend split from the Salafist one. Salafism was born in the 14th century, and Mohammed Abd al-Wahhab lived in the 18th century, and he was a Salafist. Wahhabism is really a slightly more orthodox version of Salafism, and follows every religious doctrine even more strictly.
888.hu: To what extent is it true that the root problem of European Islam is the fact that imams imported from abroad arrive in the mosques and disseminate extremist views? How can Salafists be compared to the Wahhabis or to the Turkish Islamic nationalists who are working on the revitalization of the Ottoman imperial traditions? Why is what happens in a mosque in Europe important?
Miklós Maróth: Where the Turks are the majority, as in Germany, naturally the Turkish-speaking imams lead the religious communities. And where there are Arabic speakers, then religious scholars are usually sent by an Arabic-speaking country that can sacrifice the most for this purpose, namely Saudi Arabia, generally speaking. In places that historically fell under the Ottoman Empire, a re-Ottomanisation experiment is taking place. In Germany we can see the attempt to strengthen Turkish influence; elsewhere in Europe, it is largely Wahhabism that tries to put Muslim communities under its spell. It is currently impossible to train European imams in Europe for Muslim believers. Certified Islamic imams can only come from Muslim countries. And because sending those has a financial dimension, the richest countries — i.e. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are those that are the richest, and have the greatest proselytizing tendencies — are the ones sending the majority of imams to Europe. The significance of imams can only be understood if we know that world of Islam, religion is the most influential factor in all aspects of life. We in Europe live in a secular society, and for us religion is a private matter, which is the reason why we relate very differently to this question than the Islamic world. In the Islamic world, the political and religious communities are one and the same, so religious expansion is means political expansion, too. It’s not a coincidence that when the migrant wave started in the direction of Europe — which ended up getting about 1.5 million Muslims into Europe — only Saudi Arabia offered to help European countries handle the crisis. The Saudi help offered was to build 1,500 mosques. Currently the European leaders do not know that in the mosques of the countries under whose name the prayers are announced and on whose behalf they collecting is where they send the zakat (tax). Why this is important? Because an Islamic State does not have a constitutive element like a state border, but instead where and under whose name they announce the prayer and where the zakat goes. Based on these correlations, today it can be clearly reported that, practically speaking, the Islamic State is here in Europe, as it has now fully established the essence of Islamic infrastructure, and the Islamic State can fully rely on that. In addition, there are presently significant amounts of ”halal” (religiously approved) funding moving around in Europe, which completes the Islamic religious and political community infrastructure. The Islamic religious communities have serious financial funds at their disposal; they can operate in Europe in a way that the secular-minded European authorities and public administration are simply unable to comprehend.
888.hu: How do the Islamic believers regard European territories that were once under Islamic rule?
Miklós Maróth: There is a specific mindset that we can talk about in most of the Islamic world in this respect. Any area that which once belonged to Islam, according to their vision, will remain their own. I saw a good example of this in an Al Jazeera TV report. A Moroccan government delegation traveled to Spain. A television reporter knew that the ancestors of the delegation leader once fled from the Christian Reconquista from Andalusia, and settled into Morocco. So the Arab television reporter began his interview by asking a question of the head of the delegation: ”How you feel when you go back to the land of your ancestors, which is under foreign occupation at the moment?” So the alien invaders are the Spaniards in Spain. In many ways, the same attitude can be seen behind the Turkish endeavors at re-Ottomanisation.
888.hu: Is there any risk from the local Islamic community in Hungary? Is there a chance of radicalisation of the local Islamic community here?
Miklós Maróth: You do not need afraid of such things here, because the the major part of our Islamic community is made up of people who came here during the period of the ‘50s to the ’80s, mainly as Arabic-speaking students. They came from one secular society to another one, and therefore are not just integrated, but practically assimilated into Hungarian society. They have Hungarian wives and children. They represent a completely different mentality from that of the people who are flooding into Europe now, who have no skills, but expect a livelihood for free, and who also want to expand Islam. I would like to emphasize in this regard that important element of Islam is the (Sharia) law. In the ’90s they developed new rules in Islamic law relating to minority Muslims as well. These laws state that Muslims can only stay in non-Islamic countries, such as Europe, if they fulfill a mission to convert others to Islam.
888.hu: What changed in Europe or in the Islamic world, that Christian Europe unexpectedly had to face Islam as a source of unexpected problems and threats? Why are the Islamic extremist and terrorist acts now gaining ground?
Miklós Maróth: In recent years, several circumstances changed and led to the current situation. The first major group of Muslim migrants that arrived in Europe was looking for work and a better life. They were satisfied with what they earned and gladly performed tasks assigned to them, and in exchange they received a better livelihood. The second generation of this group had different attitudes toward everything. They want higher European lifestyle. But according to statistics the majority of students are who drop out of the school system are migrants or from an immigrant background; the young people of this group have no educational qualifications. They live adrift on the periphery of society, which makes them frustrated. An important difference is that up until recently the Muslim immigrants were very few. Recent large waves of Muslim immigration have increased the number of believers and the proportion of Muslims in Europe. The Muslims who settled in have fertility rates much higher than the host societies, which is now clearly visible. With the growth of the Muslim population they started to become louder and to make demands more boldly. However, the expansion of the Islamic mindset was helped by European public opinion, political attitudes and social conditions that consider religion a private matter, and the rights of minorities have to be taken into account in all aspects. This attitude finally led to the giving up of all European traditions.
With this spirit right now in Europe, we are the ones who remove the crucifixes from the walls and church bell towers, and we do not wish each other a Merry Christmas, but only say “Season’s greetings”, so as not to damage the religious sensitivities of Muslim immigrants. So Europe lost all cultural and religious backbone, as opposed to the migrants flooding in, who are devout Muslims holding on to their religion, and they are not ashamed to represent it.