This is one of the days we in the West are suffering collateral damage from the Muslim War raging in the Middle East. Normally, the news of the daily horror Â in „the Orient“Â have long become kind of a distant background noise. For the pastÂ days however, mainstream media stage a short-time outrage here in western Europe and we experience kind of a personal consternation. All of a sudden and for a short moment, the catastrophe of the Muslim War is near and real.
What happened yesterday in Tunisia is a reminder. Of course this is not our war, but we are part of it. We will not escape. We should be aware that we will see and experienceÂ more collateral damages. There will be more Bostons, Â BrusselsÂ orÂ Paris.
This time it happened in Sousse in Tunisia, one of our summer holiday destinations in the Mediterranean Sea. On its easternÂ and southern shores the warÂ is raging. It is no coincidence that the last event involving us westerners directly happened inÂ Tunisia:
Libya, one of the main theaters of the Muslim War is right next door and Tunisia has been one of the most important recruiting centers ofÂ fundamentalist militant groups like ISIS or Al-Qaida.
„Tunisia has been the number one provider of foreign fighters in Syria so far. As of last October (2014), there were an estimated 3,000 Tunisians who had traveled to Iraq and Syria and joined extremist groups like ISIS. Many of them were trained in the country, where a lawless desert area on the border with Libya offers ideal conditions for jihadis to train undisturbed.“ (International Business Times).
The figures from the London-based International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) and New York-based The Soufan GroupÂ show Â that the majority of the foreign fighters are from nearby Arab countries, such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
The terrorist of Sousse wasÂ one of the estimated 3000 Tunisian „Soldiers of the Caliphate“, as ISIL propaganda labels them.
The numbers of The Soufan Group from last year also show that about a quarter of the foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq are from the West. The american think tank Brookings has detailed these numbers in the beginning of this year:
For years, western security authorities have beenÂ preparing the returnÂ of „their“ war veterans, because they fear that a wave of terrorism will sweep over Europe.
„Western security services fear that the foreign fighter threat in Syria and Iraq is different in important ways than past foreign fighter problems. Young European and American Muslims will go off to fight in Syria and Iraq as Sunni idealists but will return as anti-Western terrorists. They see combat experience in the region as a double threat. Many of those who go to war will come back as hardened veterans, steady in the face of danger and skilled in the use of weapons and explosivesâ€”ideal terrorist recruiting material. While in the combat zone, they will form networks with other Western Muslims and establish ties to jihadists around the world, making them prone to further radicalization and giving them access to training, weapons, and other resources they might otherwise lack.“ (Brookings)
And the current case of Tunisia will reaffirm the fear of the western security services. But BrookingsÂ urges to remain calm:
„Despite these fears and the real danger that motivates them, the Syrian and Iraqi foreign fighter threat can easily be exaggerated. Previous cases and information emerging from Syria suggest several mitigating effects that may reduceâ€”but hardly eliminateâ€”the potential terrorist threat from foreign fighters who have gone to Syria.“
However: „Some countries try to stop the flow, others turn a blind eye, but all face the same problem: what to do when the jihadists return home?“ as BBC puts it.
MostÂ european countries have set up special programs to deal with threat of returning veterans from the Muslim War. There will be a mix of Â prosecution and rehabilitation. The most famous case of a rehabiltiation program is the „Aarhus Model“.
The shock in Europe about the catastrophe of Sousse will wear off soon. The western media will try to sell their daily products with other attractive subjects. But there is no doubt, that there will be other Sousses, maybe ZÃ¼richs or Berlins or most probably more Londons, Brussels and Paris coming. Europa is part of the Muslim War. Luckily, we are suffering only collateral damages, but they should remind us of the seemingly endless suffering of the people trapped in the midst of the war: in the Middle East from Benghazi to Cairo and Sanaa to Baghdad and Mosul, from Kobane and Aleppo to Damascus and further on to Kabul and Peshawar and …