Aleteia

The integration of Muslims into Western society is vital, says international terrorism expert

BARCELONA, SPAIN - AUGUST 21: Thousands of people called by Muslim organizations hold banners during a demonstration against terror attacks and solidarity with the victims of the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain on August 21, 2017. Albert Llop / Anadolu Agency
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Professor Villacampa of Abat Oliba CEU University in Barcelona reports that "various" terrorist cells are broken up every year.

The Muslim community needs to be integrated into society as a whole. This is “vital” in order to prevent radicalization and consequent terrorist attacks. These are the recommendations of Francisco Villacampa,  international expert and professor of Public International Law at Abat Oliba CEU University, who spoke with Aleteia in Barcelona, Spain.

What we must understand is that even before the most recent attack, “the threat hanging over Western countries was great, and we knew that attacks could be committed in any important city in Europe. Barcelona was a key target for terrorists due to its important tourism industry.”

So “an attack was plausible,” and security forces knew it; in fact, they break up many terrorist cells in Barcelona, in the region of Catalonia in general, and throughout the rest of Europe. The proximity of France as an escape destination and the great number of Muslims in the area make slipping away easier for Islamist terrorists.

Villacampa explains that “so many groups are broken up because the law facilitates it: there was a reform of Spanish legislation (the 2015 Reform of the Penal Code) which already anticipated what the fight against terrorism in Europe is just starting to implement now.”

In Spain, which suffered a brutal attack in Madrid 13 years ago, it’s common for some cells to be stopped at an “embryonic” stage, Villacampa adds.

Although the cell responsible for the most recent attack in Barcelona is still being investigated today, Villacampa tells Aleteia that, in this case, he can say it was a “complex” cell composed of 20 or 25 members, mostly men (in the operational phase, 99 percent are male; women play a more important role in the phases of recruitment and domestic supply logistics).

“They had been planning this attack for at least a year: first, they get the idea, then they plan it, they carry it out, and—very important—they consider the get-away plan, which involves spreading out in Spain or escaping to France.

“They just want to kill; their purpose is to attack, and then they hide for a while in order to continue attacking over and over again. For them, the order to kill is a divine message: the word of Allah is that they must kill in order to establish the universal caliphate, the Ummah. They understand killing as a means to a political objective—the Islamization of society.”

According to Villacampa, their idea is “to make the West afraid, and finally to establish their territory here, according to strict and radical Islam.

“They want to create terror, seed panic, and achieve a brutal impact until they can enforce Islam. Now they are surely back at their bases, happy, because throughout the entire West people are talking about this attack in Barcelona. Tourists are afraid, the country’s economy is being affected, people are afraid to go to a shopping center …

“With these actions, they are launching the idea that any Western country can suffer an attack, until the West is conquered and they are in power.

“This is a global struggle, and therefore the fight against this problem must be multidisciplinary, involving the military, the police, the judiciary, and social means.

“The solution is to keep fighting to integrate Muslims into society, so that the children in schools go to religion classes, neighborhoods don’t become ghettos, and there are plans to avoid radicalization, like in Catalonia and other locations in Spain.

“Terrorist cycles take place over a period of time, and it’s fairly long,” Villacampo explains. He began to become interested in this field when he left his law practice to work in logistics, and traveled extensively. He has dedicated his studies and his doctoral thesis to the phenomenon of international terrorism of neo-Salafi inspiration.

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