Leiden Safety and Security Blog

Conference on European Jihadism in the ‘Caliphate’ Era

Conference on European Jihadism in the ‘Caliphate’ Era

Under the title ‘European Jihadism in the ‘Caliphate’ Era’ the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI) and the Norwegian Ministry of Defence brought together about 80 experts in Oslo to discuss today’s jihadist terrorist threat to Europe.

During this two-day conference, the different panels focused on a wide range of topics such as current threat levels, the impact of military operations against Islamic State, counter-measures against European extremists and foreign fighters, and possible new patterns of radicalization. Special attention was given to online mobilization and the situation in France, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Jeanine de Roy van Zuijdewijn and Edwin Bakker of ISGA and the ICCT were invited to present on respectively the fallout of the phenomenon of foreign fighting and the situation in the Netherlands.

Three aspects of jihadism today were mentioned most frequently in the presentations and discussions. First of all, the development within jihadism from being a vanguard or elitist movement to what some labeled a "gangsta jihad", "proletarian jihad" or "pleberian jihad". Secondly, the importance of jihadist scenes and networks within countries partly explaining geographical clusters and the size of the phenomenon of foreign fighters and jihadist supporters. Thirdly, the long term impact that today’s foreign fighters and jihadist scenes might have on jihadi militancy in Europe in the years to come. Regarding the latter, a military defeat of the ‘caliphate’ was regarded not as the end of IS but simply a new phase in which Europe could become an important target.

The most notable difference of opinion related to possible drivers of radicalisation. Some experts mentioned socio-economic factors as the main drivers, whereas others put more emphasis on ideological or organizational factors. Most experts acknowledged that the search for one particular “root cause” or driver is probably futile, but that more attention should be paid to understanding the relative weight of different factors.

The findings of the conference will be published in a special issue of the free, open-access online journal Perspectives on Terrorism.

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