"While the precise number of European jihadis is impossible to pinpoint, counterterrorism officials across the Continent believe the pool of radicals is growing. A 2004 estimate by the French police found that around 150 of the country's 1,600 mosques and prayer halls were under the control of extremist elements; in a study of 1,160 recent French converts to Islam, 23% identified themselves as Salafists, members of a sect that has been associated with violent extremism. In the Netherlands, home to 1 million Muslims, a spokesman for the Dutch intelligence service says it is believed as many as 20 different hard-line Islamic groups may be operating. Some are simply prayer groups adhering to radical interpretations of the Koran, while others may be organizing and recruiting for violence. In Britain, authorities say that as many as 3,000 veterans of al-Qaeda training camps over the years were born or based within its borders.
What explains the proliferation of Europe's homegrown radicals? Interviews by Time correspondents with dozens of Muslims across Western Europe reveal consistent answers as to why so many are responding to the call of extremism. Some lack a sense of belonging in European societies that have long struggled to assimilate new immigrants from the Islamic world. Many, in particular younger Muslims, suffer disproportionately from Europe's high-unemployment, slow-growth economies. Others are outraged over the bloodshed in Iraq and the persistent notion that the West is waging an assault on Islam itself. “There's a spreading atmosphere of indignation among normal Muslims that is echoing among the younger generation,” says a French investigator with a decade of antiterror experience.
It's echoing loudly, in part because the anger is amplified by 21st century technology. In the past, the alienated would simmer in relative isolation, unable to connect or communicate with those who shared their anger. The Internet has changed that. Critical to the rise of generation jihad has been the ease with which its members can communicate with each other and peruse controversial websites like Tajdeed.net, run by Saudi dissident and London resident Mohammed al-Massari. While his other English site hosts what he calls “philosophical discussions,” the Arabic site shows gruesome videos of U.S. and British troops being blown up by Iraqi insurgents, and beheadings of kidnap victims. Al-Massari says he cannot control what is posted there. These days, the very existence of such sites alarms the British government. Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the wake of the summer bombings, vowed to crack down on “specific extremist websites.”
"It's a critical question: how do second-generation European Muslims define themselves? Many say they feel a part neither of the country of their birth, nor of their parents' heritage. That some often live on the dole, unable to find work, only enhances their sense of estrangement. The attitude of Riad, a 32-year-old French citizen who has been unemployed since 2002, is all too common. Sitting in a café in the Lyons suburb of Vénissieux, he says, “They say we are French, and we would like to believe that as well. But do we look like normal French people to you?” His friend Karim, 27, insists they are discriminated against because of their long beards. “Who will give us a job when we look like this? We have to fend for ourselves and find a way out.”
That lack of connection to their native societies can be aggravated by extremists. Zaheer Khan, a 30-year-old British Muslim who grew up in Kent in southeast England, says his own experience was fairly common among Muslims of his generation. He was drawn to radical Islam while in college in the mid-1990s, he says. The Wahhabi and Salafist recruiters, he says, “would tell you that things like taking out car insurance is against Islamic principles, or voting — this is haram, forbidden. Slowly, the disengagement [from British society] was there. You didn't say, 'Let's explore what it means to be living in Britain.' This didn't come up.”
The feelings Khan had back then — though still devout, he has rejected radical Islam — are wide-spread among second-generation European Muslims. “The problem is that they have no real roots,” says Dominique Many, a lawyer for one of the Muslim Frenchmen taken into custody by French officials on suspicion of volunteering to fight against U.S. forces in Iraq. “In Tunisia, they are considered foreigners. In France, they are considered foreigners. This is the new generation of Muslims.”"
Read the full article at Time.com.