Radicalization Of Young Moroccans Of European Diaspora And Responsibility Of Europe – OpEd


In recent years, young Moroccan people from the Diaspora, second and third generations, have been involved in acts of violence and terrorism in Europe to such an extent that several media outlets have focused on this phenomenon in an attempt to understand why this happening — bearing in mind that Morocco is one of the few countries of the MENA region that enjoys lasting political stability referred to as the “Moroccan exception”, exemplary religious tolerance and incredible hospitality and openness towards the other.i Not to forget, of course, that Morocco has, for a long time, been diligently fighting terrorism, with much firmness and determination on its own soil and also helping actively friendly European countries, in this area.ii

Jeune Afrique magazine cover of August 27, 2017
Jeune Afrique magazine cover of August 27, 2017

Youth Abandoned And Marginalized

Following the attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, the magazine Jeune Afrique devoted its cover of August 27, 2017 to the involvement of Moroccans of the Diaspora in acts of terrorism, with an accusing and unfair title: “Terrorism: Born in Morocco,” and which provoked a lot of emotion in Morocco as well as a lot of criticism and anger because the adjective “Moroccan” was misused for sensational purposes.iii

These young lone wolves are, of course of Moroccan origin, but Morocco as a country has nothing to do with their radicalization, in the least. Their radicalization took place in Europe exclusively, so the countries of Europe are responsible for their actions, for several reasons:

  • Cultural and professional marginalization;
  • Ghettoization;
  • Incessant stigmatization;
  • Latent and harmful racism;
  • Islamophobia; and
  • Conflicts of generations with their generally authoritarian and patriarchal parents.

For Mr. Abdellah Boussouf, Secretary General of the Council of the Moroccan Community Abroad (CCME), the Moroccans of the Diaspora are outstanding ambassadors and not people of bad reputation:iv

“Moroccan migrations abroad have never been a bad sign or a point of weakness for Morocco, since the first migrations as explorers, travelers for the acquisition of knowledge, wayfarers for pilgrimage to the sacred places, or for diplomatic voyages , up to the economic migrations of the beginning of the last century in search of opportunities of employment abroad, especially in Europe …. Morocco has always considered Moroccans of the world as its ambassadors abroad, a fundamental pillar of sustainable development and an extension of its historical and cultural heritage …”

Alas, today, the siblings of the Moroccan migrants are emotionally alone, psychologically bruised and totally destabilized. They do not feel to belong to their country of origin and extraction, nor to their country of adoption and birth, so, in principle, they have evolved into an easy prey for religious radicalization by brainwashing undertaken by international Islamist master terrorists.

Indeed, since the establishment of Jihad in Afghanistan in 1980s, to drive the Soviets out of this Muslim country, many religious organizations such as al-Qaeda, then, ISIS, today, and many others have taken upon themselves the recovery of such “abandoned” youth, branded by their countries of origin as “black sheep,” and their formation and orientation in the sense of the so-called “Glory of Islam” by combating the Western world nicknamed “Crusader,” salibiyuun, forces and their destruction, to attain and deserve paradise and be welcomed into it.

Emasculated Amazigh youth

Location of Rif region in Morocco. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.
Location of Rif region in Morocco. Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

In the fifties of the last century, Europe, in full reconstruction thanks to the American largesse of the Marshall Plan, was in great need of strong arms for this task. Once again, after the recruitment of the Amazighs of North Africa into the European armies to defend it against Nazism, the old continent turned to this people for its reconstruction, after the end of World War II. Thus, recruiters criss-crossed the mountains of North Africa in search of young, healthy and strong Amazigh males, renowned for their stamina and seriousness. The majority of this youth were illiterate and many spoke only Amazigh language.

On arrival in Europe, they were first housed in ghettos and a few years later they returned to the bled, i.e. home, on vacation, with money and gifts, and spoke generously of “the European Eldorado”, while arousing the admiration and jealousy of those who remained behind, who in turn, did everything possible to immigrate to Europe, to share in its “boundless wealth and bounty.” In some clans of the Rif, like Iherassen of the Gzennaya tribe, given the difficulty of acquiring a passport minted by the corrupt officials, dozens of Rifian males, sporting the same surname used the same passport by changing the photo to immigrate to the “European paradise.” The European governments, aware of this illegal practice, closed their eyes because they greatly needed this cheap workforce for their thriving economy.

To better accommodate its immigrants, Europe had made it possible, in the 1970s, for family repatriation. Thus, young people were born on the European soil and grew up in liberal democracies. Some took the opportunity to study and become executives, but many went wrong and took the wrong path: drug-selling, pick pocketing, petty crime, fraud, organized crime, etc. after which they were arrested several times by the police and filed. In the long run, these youngsters have become black sheep and, unlike their relatives attached to their country of origin and its culture and values, they, on the contrary, have had a great problem of identity and belonging. Feeling totally isolated from their families, too traditional, and their European country of birth, racist and stigmatizing.

Town of Al Hoceima in the Rif province of Morocco. Photo by Westonmr, Wikipedia Commons.

Thus, this culturally and psychologically traumatized youth became an easy prey to Islamist terrorist centers of Wahhabi inspiration and religious ideology, having generous access to the petrodollars of the Gulf countries. Once in the arms of these master terrorists and “sellers of violent death,” wrapped in a disfigured and violent version of Islam, they were gratified by easy money and comfortable identity sought after and desired, with, as a bonus, the tempting promise of paradise and its innumerable delights and creature comforts.

Media Amalgam

Many media outlets in Western countries that have Islamophobic tendencies and driven by journalistic sensationalism have precipitately linked these young victims of terrorism and Islamism to their country of cultural origin: Morocco.

For example, a journalist named Leela Jacinto has written a misleading article entitled “Morocco’s outlaw country is the heartland of global terrorism”, published on April 7, 2016 by the very serious US electronic magazine: Foreign Policyv and picked up the next day by the newspaper Chicago Tribune:

“At the heart of terrorist strikes across the world over the past 15 years lies the Rif. A mountainous region in northern Morocco, stretching from the teeming cities of Tangier and Tetouan in the west to the Algerian border in the east, the Rif is an impoverished area rich in marijuana plants, hashish peddlers, smugglers, touts, and resistance heroes that has rebelled against colonial administrators, postcolonial kings, and any authority imposed from above. For the children of the Rif who have been transplanted to Europe, this background can combine with marginalization, access to criminal networks, and radicalization to make the vulnerable ones uniquely drawn to acts of terrorism.

The Rif’s links to jihadi attacks probably first came to light in 2004 following the March 11 Madrid bombings, when it was discovered that nearly all of the plotters had links to Tetouan. Three years after the Madrid attacks, when reporter Andrea Elliot, in an article for the New York Times Magazine, visited that hardscrabble city in the heart of the Rif, she found a number of Tetouan youth, inspired by the Madrid bombers, making their way to Iraq to wage jihad on U.S. troops with al Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to the Islamic State.”

Rif Mountains in Morocco. Photo by Gabi, WIkipedia Commons.
Rif Mountains in Morocco. Photo by Gabi, Wikipedia Commons.

This so-called journalist had traveled through Morocco hastily and had literally no basic knowledge of Amazigh culture imbued with tolerance, respect for the other and a sense of cohabitation, for the last 5,000 years. She reached a hurried and an undocumented conclusion that the Moroccan Rif is undeniably the heart of global terrorism, for the simple reason that the terrorist apprentices of ISIS, in recent years in Europe, trace their origin to the Rif, but were born and raised in Europe. However, one wonders how, logically speaking, can one condemn a country of origin for the violent behavior of people whose parents are from that country but are themselves physically born and bred in European countries?

In time, I had answered this fallacious article with a documented article that I had sent to these two aforementioned media outlets, but unfortunately they have never published this work, within the framework of the “right of reply” and this proves clearly that this kind of Western press openly cultivates prejudices and stereotypes, without ambiguity and without any remorse.vi

“Yet again, Western journalism goes sensational and culturally insensitive when dealing with the Muslim world. One wonders whether it is out of sheer ignorance or the calculated aim to inflict pain and cause panic. Being a native son of the Rif region of northern Morocco and a cultural anthropologist and linguist, who has worked on the culture of the area for over 40 years, I was truly flabbergasted by the sensational nature of a piece of journalism entitled “Morocco’s outlaw country is the heartland of global terrorism,” written by Leela Jacinto, published first by the very serious electronic journal Foreign Policy on April 7, 2016 and picked up later on by Chicago Tribune on April 8, 2016.It is an established truth and a known fact that the press in general goes for catchy titles to attract readers and consequently sell its product. But, the truth of the matter is that the article in question goes beyond that to give false information through sensational language. The journalist unabashedly uses two wrong pieces of information:

“Morocco’s outlaw country” in referring to the northern region known geographically and culturally as the Rif; and

“Heartland of global terrorism” as if all known terrorism originates in this area.

These two phrases carefully chosen by the author and espoused by the editor of the FP journal open the floodgate to swamp the reader with a series of misconceptions and fallacies and encourage Islamophobic tendencies, already at their height in the West. Unfortunately, the journalist used Trump-like rhetoric to, unwillingly, perhaps, scare the readers and make them dislike Muslims further and, consequently, make the life of the latter, even more difficult in the West. The unfortunate choice of the above-mentioned phrases not only strengthens existing stereotypes about Muslims in the Western world, but also spreads untrue information about a country like Morocco, a kingdom that has always been a faithful and reliable ally of the West for centuries, not to mention, of course, that it is, probably, the only stable political entity in the Arab World, today, in the aftermath of Arab uprisings.I get the impression that the journalist whizzed through the Rif and Morocco and collected information from lay people and wrote her piece without taking the time to discuss the thorny issues she deals with, with Moroccan experts. The end result is a piece of journalism alarmist and false and, ultimately, noxious to the country, to be taken with a pinch of salt through and through. However, one wonders why on earth Foreign Policy published such a piece without making the effort of checking the veracity of its content. Has this publication been contaminated by Trump-like ideology, fashionable these days in America and Europe, intent on demonizing overtly Islam and Muslims?”

King of Morocco Mohammed VI and US President Barack Hussein Obama. Photo Credit: MAP and White House.
Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and US President Barack Obama. Credit: White House.

And for those who believe that the Western press is an example of righteousness and probity, such a partial behavior will give them a lot of thought.


International Praise

Since some time ago, the American administration has praised, now and then, Morocco for its incessant efforts and actions in fighting global terrorism:vii

“The US State Department’s new country reports on terrorism for 2009 praises Morocco as a model for security, innovative efforts to curb extremism, and international cooperation to combat the transnational threat from al-Qaeda and affiliates such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in north africa and the sahel, which the report cites as one of al-Qaeda’s “most-active” worldwide.”

The report praises King Mohammed VI’s:

“Significant efforts to reduce extremism and dissuade individuals from becoming radicalized,”

Very recently, the Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT), Jehangir Khan,viii told MAP (Moroccan press agency) on the sidelines of the 9th meeting of the Coordination Committee of the Global Forum for the Fight against Terrorism (GCTF), held in The Hague:

“I praise Morocco and HM King Mohammed VI for the leadership of the kingdom in the global fight against terrorism.”

This pioneering role has been:ix

“Confirmed today by Morocco’s access to the co-chair of the global forum for the fight against terrorism (GCTF), an important platform that brings together many countries in different regions of the world to promote multilateral cooperation, in support of the UN efforts for the development of the global strategy against terrorism,”

stressed Khan, also, director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF).

Now, bearing this in mind, one wonders how Morocco can be a “heartland of global terrorism.” It does not make sense at all. It is either a gross misconception or a sensational journalistic cue to make the pieces of Foreign Policy and that of Jeune Afrique, afore-mentioned, very successful.

Training Of Future Terrorists

ISIS terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. Photo: Screenshot from ISIS propaganda video.
ISIS terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. Photo: Screenshot from ISIS propaganda video.

The training of future terrorists is done in stages by religious ideologues versed in psychology and masters of one-way religious culture. This training is exclusively carried out in Europe, without the European intelligence services detecting it, in the past:

First stage: Identification of “victims”:

They are identified on the net or in peripheral quarters, cités, banlieues or ghettos by religious scouts, kind of “sherpas” of evil;

Second stage: Creation of friendship ties:

Terrorist masters play a great deal on the psychology of these, somewhat, abandoned and marginalized young people; they put them in confidence and make them feel at ease and far from any constraint. They generously make money available to them and show great concern about their idleness, unemployment, family conflicts, stigmatization, and so on;

Third stage: Religious “diagnosis” of the evil that harms the youth:

Acculturation, estrangement and alienation which are none other than the direct effect of the insidious “culture of Satan”, the materialistic civilization of the West that encourages physical enjoyment and vices and corrupts the soul totally. The teacher trainers explain to the young people that God has gratified non-Muslims on earth with opulence, riches and pleasures to test them but they have rejected, ignored, and fought the “true” religion that is Islam, consequently they are damned for eternity and fighting them is a licit and lawful, Halal, action and is the culmination of Jihad. For the “good” Muslims, fighting for the Glory of Islam, paradise, jennah, is promised them with its joys, delights and delectations, according to jihadist literature;

Fourth stage: Ideological formation of the young people:

The recruits are trained to believe that all the evils of the Islamic world are due to the Christians, nsara, who are infidels, kufffar, that must be fought without mercy and killed mercilessly. They have stood up against Islam, untiringly, since its advent by such bellicose and belligerent actions as: the reconquista, the crusades, the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate, the colonization, the promise of Balfour, the spoliation of Palestine, and the recent onslaught on Iraq and various Islamic countries. Christians have killed Muslims, enslaved and emasculated them, to bar the way to the progression of Islam and its glory, so revenge on them is a religious duty and an imminent cultural necessity;x

Fifth stage: Making recruits Insensitive:

Recruits through, intensive brainwashing, are made to become insensitive to pain, horrible death, gratuitous violence and inhuman torture. Thus, they are converted into automata, ready to perform any mission or dirty work without remorse or questioning; and

Sixth stage: The martyrdom:

The last step is the conversion of recruits into killing machines. They are trained to believe that their death for the Glory of Islam is the utmost form of martyrdom, istishehad, which will open to them wide the door of paradise and will gratify them with eternity.

However, Islam, as such, has never been a religion of violence and death for presumed glory. Islam is a religion of peace, cohabitation and love and respect for others in their culture and creed.

Europe Is Not Inclusive

European politicians have always preached multiculturalism and integration, but, alas, this has been just empty talk because Muslims all over Europe have felt marginalized on the grounds of their culture and creed and, consequently, Muslim youth became easy prey for religious radicals such as al-Qaeda or ISIS.

The existence, today, of the French cités, banlieues, Molenbeek in Belgium and various ghettos throughout Europe and the past unfortunate terrorist attacks in Belgium and several other European cities commandeered by ISIS and other terrorist groups is sound proof that Europe has failed miserably its melting pot test and integration policies.

Realizing that the French policy on the integration of Muslims has been a total fiasco, ex-French Prime Minster Vallsxi  accompanied by 11 ministers of his cabinet visited Vaulx-en-Velin in Rhones, where in 1990 riots erupted as a result of discrimination and following that the French government created the “Ministère de la Ville” to bring economic relief to the ghettos. But almost three decades later, unemployment is still high among the youth, indeed half of the 25 years old young people are jobless, which means that the apartheid system denounced by ex-French Prime Minister Valls on January 2015, following, the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, in such strong words as: “l’apartheid territorial, social et ethnique,” is still very strong.

To fight discrimination, Valls announcedxii publicly, then, 20 actions (mésures) in the framework of the administrative structure created earlier to combat social exclusion i.e.: “Comité interministériel à l’égalité et à la citoyenneté (Ciec).” He, also, called upon the state and the private sector to offer high-level jobs to meriting youth from these disadvantaged areas:xiii

…Il faut renverser la table. Il faut que les élites de notre pays, dans les secteurs public comme privé, soient à l’image de notre pays. (…) l’état et la fonction publique doivent être exemplaires et ils ne le sont pas.

However, despite of this positive move on the part of the French government to fight the apartheid, yet on a different register, it is fighting a ridiculous and inconclusive war on the wearing of Hijab in educational institutions such as the University and what is more is that the government is divided on this issue.

Final Word

Radical Islamist terrorism inflicted on Europe since the Madrid 2004 events is homegrown and the countries of origin of fathers and grandfathers of the perpetrators cannot in no way be made responsible directly or indirectly for their condemnable and ignoble acts.

This misbehavior on the part of Muslim youth is the result of their marginalization in their countries of birth and non-adoption because of their culture, creed and color and it is the responsibility of European governments to have a more inclusive policies vis-à-vis their citizens, whoever they are.

These terrible terrorist attacks are a wake-up call to heed with attention and responsibility and act, consequently, upon, at once.

As for the arguments and assertions of various journalists like Leela Jacinto in magazines like Foreign Policy, and those of Jeune Afrique, etc. they are an unacceptable way and approach for explaining migrants’ offspring violence for they duly sweep the problem under the rug and blame the others for own incapacity to solve own structural problems, rather than looking earnestly for the real roots of the malaise and origins of the predicament.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter: @Ayurinu

End notes:
i. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/morocco-land-millennial-tolerance-mohamed-chtatou/

ii. https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4899/morocco-model-for-islam

iii. http://www.jeuneafrique.com/467510/politique/terrorisme-ce-quil-faut-savoir-sur-la-filiere-marocaine-qui-a-commis-les-attentats-en-catalogne/

iv. http://www.atlasinfo.fr/Les-Marocains-du-monde-ces-ambassadeurs-hors-pair_a84229.html

“The stars of the Kingdom shine in the heavens of tourism and investment, by the names of young Moroccans working in aeronautics and space centers and agencies in the United States, Japan and France, as Kamal Oudrhiri at the American NASA Agency, Rachid Amrousse at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Jaxa, Ahmed Bachar at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France, Nacer Ben Abdeljalil who carried the Moroccan flag at the top of the Everest in the mountains of the Himalayas, or Merieme Chadid, astronomer and first Arab woman to set foot in the Antarctic during a scientific mission and exploration, Asmae Boujibar, the first Arab woman to integrate NASA … Not to mention the leader of the Moroccan scientists of the world, researcher Rachid Yazami, inventor of graphite anode for lithium-ion batteries.

Khalid Rahilou, Badr Hari, Mustapha Lakhsem and many other martial arts champions have all made their mark on the international stage. For their victories, the national anthem was sung, as for those of Abdeslam Radi, race champion, or black pearl, Larbi Ben Barek, outstanding footballer. Moroccan names in various sports that have led European, American and Asian teams on the podiums, like Abdellatif Benazzi, captain of the France Rugby team.

Gad El Maleh, Jamel Debbouze, Said Taghmaoui and Red One are stars that have shone in the heavens of the seventh art, music and humor and have left their mark on many world festivals and scenes artistic works.

Rachida Dati, Najat Belkacem, Myriam El Khomri, Ahmed Boutaleb, Samira El Aouni, Fatima Houda-Pepin, Mounir El Mahjoubi and all these deputies, advisers to ministers, mayors of European cities, international institutions, think tanks and institutes of surveys.

All these skills, these Moroccan brains in the world that we can not count are the luminous image of Morocco abroad. Without forgetting to pay tribute to two children of Moroccan immigration, two brilliant skills victims of terrorism and hatred, architect Mohamed Amine Benmbarek, who died in the Paris bombings in 2015, and artist-photographer Leila Alaoui, killed in Ouagadougou in 2016. ”

v. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/07/the-rif-connection-belgium-brussels-morocco-abdeslam/

vi. https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184640/moroccos-rif-region-is-not-an-outlaw-country-and-certainly-not-the-heartland-of-global-terrorism/

vii. http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/us-applauds-moroccos-comprehensive-approach-to-fighting-terrorism-innovative-efforts-to-reduce-extremism-100154289.html

viii. http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184196/un-commends-moroccos-leadership-in-the-global-fight-against-terrorism/

ix. Op. cited

x. https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/05/217557/muslims-angry-with-western-world/

xi. http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/2016/04/13/01002-20160413ARTFIG00343-banlieues-valls-repart-en-guerre-contre-l-apartheid.php?a3=763-1563365-889084&een=a3411b815999ca17bd1b951ff6148eb5&seen=6&m_i=he35LhLeSpyJvqDnCwberusSz%2BlyeOh9Ge0kg%2Bs1wTCZvOLyzNZmEo3wEGTvAReBDy6sghAFnUzEjANZnxxLj7UmdJpI%2BT3hhC#xtor=EPR-300-%5Bactualites%5D-20160414

xii. Op. cited

xiii. Op. cited

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

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