Who is the big bad terrorist?


Over the last 10 years, new anti-terrorism legislation and executive measures have been introduced in almost all Western states in the hope of meeting enhanced security obligations. Special powers have been handed over to the executive and ad hoc procedures have been introduced with the belief that these will increase effectiveness and reduce the risk of terror. The rhetoric on who the big bad wolf is has taken considerable dimensions with the US taking a proud lead! This big bad hairy monster is usually portrait with specific religious and cultural traits... If only the Little Red Ridinghood could really see who is behind those big black eyes.

This week, my Institute announced a €1.5m EU grant to run YEIP, a youth-led project on radicalisation. I felt compelled to write this blog as I sensed the criticism of the so called "experts" in terrorism and radicalisation. "What do they know about radicalisation and working with young extremists?", some said. Probably ... they are right! But thank God, we don't.

I have been a reader, a keen student and recently a funder and an evaluator of a number of EU "anti-radicalisation" and "anti-terrorist" projects. In their effort to respond to the "get tough philosophy" of our polarised societies (and indeed justify their funding), most of these projects see those at risk as subjects for control, rehabilitation, incarceration, incapacitation and why not ... death.

And as I read the latest UK immigration policies on refugee children, US blanket bans on muslims and so on, I fear for what is yet to come. In a few days, we will celebrate the 60th year of our European Union, and thus I must ask: "When did financial (potential and alleged) gains take precedence over unity, brotherhood and the freedoms that define our humanity"? And hang on a minute! Aren't these precise financial gains the very reason that led to the two most shameful acts of our last 100 years? And isn't the European Union the move that we, as Europeans, made to say "Never Again" to the same atrocities?

Before I continue, I must make a disclaimer that relates to two personal experiences. In fact, someone would call ‘odd coincidences’. The first happened in 2005 when I was fortunate to have taken the train that was followed by the one that was bombed in Kings Cross, London. With minutes’ difference from each other, I arrived at work completely oblivious of what happened to the train before me only to find out that two of my colleagues were on that train. My job at the time was the Ministry of Justice's Human Rights Advisor (go figure)! The second coincidence took place just a few months ago when I was due to travel to Brussels and stay at the hotel above the train station that was bombed. The travel (which in the end was cancelled the day before it was due) related to a meeting that was organized by the European Commission with the aim of informing their restorative justice policies on terrorism (a coincidence?)