Why does Europe have more Jihadists than America?

Why have hundreds of young people traveled from Western Europe to join ISIS, while comparatively few have done the same from the U.S.?

Hillel Fendel ,

ISIS flag in New Jersey
ISIS flag in New Jersey
Marc Leibowitz Twitter

Headlines announcing the arrest of one or more citizens of France, Holland, Belgium, Germany or the UK for having planned to join ISIS – and news that many more have actually gone to fight for ISIS without getting caught – are no longer surprising for their frequency. But Elliot Friedland, writing for the Clarion Project, addresses the gap between European would-be jihadis and those from America.

Why are America’s Muslims the most integrated in the world, he asks, while Europe continues to send jihadis to fight for ISIS? Basically, he says, it's because Europe encourages individualism and separation – even providing funding and legitimacy to any element that claims to represent a community – while the U.S. is more of a melting pot.

"The American model of citizenship is more inclusive than that of European countries," Friedland writes. "[In] the United States… apart from formality of citizenship, anyone can become accepted as an 'American' by accepting American values.

"This foundational premise of America as the land of freedom and opportunity is conducive to integration of immigrants. America doesn’t ask new immigrants to give up their faith or their heritage, it simply asks for an additional commitment to something that can be understood universally. European nationalisms, on the other hand, emphasize history, ethnicity and faith – exclusionary narratives of nationhood that alienate rather than include new immigrants."

Friedland quotes analyst Sam Westrop: “British multiculturalism has encouraged British society to exist as a federation of communities in which each minority community was not required to adopt the values of the majority." This segregation has provided the opening for Islamist countries like Saudi Arabia to wield great influence in the Muslim communities, by funding mosques, community organizations, and the like.

At the same time, in the name of diversity, the British government itself actually encouraged this segregation by “offer[ing] taxpayer funds and political legitimacy to anyone who claimed to represent a community.”

Former Islamist extremist Ed Husain agrees: "Many Muslims want to live apart from mainstream British society; official government policy has helped them do so. I grew up without any white friends. My school was almost entirely Muslim… So it was easy for the extremists to say to me: ‘You see? You’re not part of British society. You never will be. You can only be part of an Islamic society.’"
British writer Kenan Malik succinctly sums up the situation in Europe: “Where once [it was] argued that everyone should be treated equally, despite their radical, ethnic, religious or cultural differences, now [the idea is] that different people should be treated differently because of such differences.”