Experts examine radicalisation factors of Moroccans

'It would be a mistake to generalise from the case of some deviant activists who obviously do not represent the Moroccan people.' Charles Saint-Prot, director of the Observatory for Geopolitical Studies in Paris.

Charles Saint-Prot


2017/08/27 Issue: 121 Page: 14


The Arab Weekly
Saad Guerraoui



Casablanca - The disproportionate number of Moroccans in­volved in recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, London, Turku and Bar­celona drew attention to radicali­sation factors in Morocco, which is fighting Islamist extremism on its own soil.

A van ramming into pedestri­ans on Barcelona’s famed tourist boulevard Las Ramblas and a simi­lar attack in the seaside resort town of Cambrils killed 15 people and wounded more than 100 others. The Islamic State (ISIS) claimed re­sponsibility for the attacks.

A 12-member terror cell accused of carrying out the attacks includ­ed brothers and childhood friends from the small Spanish border town of Ripoll. Most of the young men were from Morocco and were known for being well-integrated into their tiny community.

“It would be a mistake to gener­alise from the case of some devi­ant activists who obviously do not represent the Moroccan people. In Spain and Belgium, for example, the immigrant community is pre­dominantly Moroccan, as it may be predominantly Algerian in France or Tunisian in other countries,” said Charles Saint-Prot, director of the Observatory for Geopolitical Stud­ies in Paris.

“One cannot stigmatise a whole people because of the actions of a few and it must be clear that there is no national factor predestin­ing a particular foreign national to commit criminal acts. The causes of these acts must be sought else­where.”

Families of the attackers accused Abdelbaki Es Satty, an imam in Ri­poll, of recruiting and brainwash­ing the young men but worshippers in the mosque insisted that Satty preached only from the Quran.

Satty, a Moroccan who was im­prisoned from 2010-14 for drug traf­ficking, arrived in Ripoll in 2015. He was killed August 16 by a power­ful explosion in a house in Alcanar, where police uncovered a cache of 120 gas canisters in what they said was the suspects’ bomb factory.

Saint-Prot said there are several factors that can lead to radicalisa­tion and criminalisation.

“First, there is the psychological weakness of some who allow them­selves to be trapped by extremist slogans and follow leaders who manipulate them in the name of a deviant conception of religion that some people know little or not at all,” he said.

“The second factor, therefore, is the ignorance of what is the true message of Islam, which is the reli­gion of the happy medium, of toler­ance and of the refusal of extremes. Fanaticism is characteristic of weak and ignorant minds. It is notewor­thy that many terrorists are better known as ordinary criminals than religious activists. We also cannot neglect the terrorists’ refusal to in­tegrate into society and their hatred in an irrational manner.”

Saint-Prot emphasised that prop­aganda on the internet plays an in­fluential role in driving fragile peo­ple to extremism.

“The religious pretext is, there­fore, an imposture as well as the references to the conflicts in the Middle East because these extrem­ists have never been seen militat­ing for Palestine or against the in­tervention of the United States in Iraq. In any case, they betray the Arab causes and caricature them as they betray Islam and play the ide­ology of the clash of civilisations,” he said.

Politicians and government of­ficials in Morocco and Europe are struggling to find ways to fight youth radicalisation by promoting a moderate version of Islam based on coexistence and tolerance.

In an interview with The Arab Weekly last December, Morocco’s anti-terror chief said the country had adopted a strategy based on so­cioeconomic, religious and security aspects since 2003.

Terror attacks in Casablanca in 2003 and Marrakech in 2011 killed a total of 50 people and injured doz­ens.

Saint-Prot said Morocco was the only southern country that is seri­ously fighting terrorism by oppos­ing the radicals, both on the secu­rity front and ideological level.

“It is true that the function of Commander of the Believers of King Mohammed VI gives him a special authority in religious mat­ters and makes him the leader of moderate Islam. Everyone knows that the monarchy is the best guar­antee against extremism and fa­naticism. Morocco’s role in the fight against terrorism and maintaining regional stability is unanimously appreciated by the European coun­tries,” Saint-Prot said.

Lhoussain Azergui, an analyst at the European Strategic Intelligence and Security Centre in Brussels, told RSI.ch that radical Islam was, decades ago, funded by the Moroc­can state.

“There is an increasing presence of Moroccans in the European ter­rorist networks because of a strong intrusion within the Moroccan so­ciety of Wahhabism, which is a very radical view of Islam, a Saudi way of thinking. A growing presence linked to the fact that these coun­tries finance mosques, cultural as­sociations and libraries that carry this interpretation,” said Azergui.

“However, it is a phenomenon that the Moroccan government has deliberately fuelled since the 1980s to counteract the ideology of the left and the radical left that had more and more political weight in the country. That is why the au­thorities have encouraged political Islam,” he said.

Saint-Prot categorically rejected Azergui’s claim.

“This kind of ridiculous state­ment must warn us against the statements of so-called specialists who are sometimes charlatans, sometimes ideologues who pursue dark intentions, sometimes both at the same time,” said Saint-Prot.


Saad Guerraoui is a regular contributor to The Arab Weekly on Maghreb issues.


As Printed
MENA Now
Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar

Correspondents

Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi

Designers

Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

www.alarab.co.uk

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved