By Martin Banks - 15th November 2012
”This is a serious problem that threatens our democratic values”
A parliamentary debate has heard that there is mounting evidence that places of education throughout Europe are being targeted by religious 'radicals'.
The event was told that "young minds" were being "moulded and radicalised" in schools and universities.
Swedish Liberal Olle Schmidt, who hosted the discussion said, "This is a serious problem that threatens our democratic values."
The MEP told the event on Tuesday, "This is especially true in my home town Malmö where we have seen an increased radicalisation among ethnic, religious and political groups. As politicians we have a responsibility to act.
"We must set up a toolbox for schools, social services and the police, we have to address the lack of living space in some neighbourhoods, and most of all we have to inform the public of this growing problem."
He said that across Europe "we have seen examples of individuals and groups who have been radicalised and resort to violence".
He said it was especially important to address the issue in schools and universities "as these are the exactly the public institutions in which the youth of Europe develop their knowledge, views and opinions".
The hearing was organised by the Brussels-based NGO European Foundation for Democracy (EFD) and attended by grassroots activists and researchers who are active in addressing radicalisation in various fields in several European countries.
Further comment came from Lorenzo Vidino, senior policy advisor at the European Foundation for Democracy, who said, "It is imperative policy makers keep up to date with this issue and to encourage integration and cohesion in European society."
He added, "We need only look at the clashes in May of this year in Bonn, Germany when Salafists attacked police protecting a far-right, Pro-NRW demonstration, or the attack on a Jewish community centre in Malmö, Sweden in October this year to see the violence that can and does result from radicalisation.
"We must still remain vigilant that even latent radicalisation is addressed before it takes root."
Roberta Bonazzi, executive director of the foundation, told the hearing that such public events on radicalisation were "crucial in connecting grassroots activists with policy makers".
Rashad Ali, of the Network for a New European Generation, said, "Radicalism on campus continues to be a problem and must be addressed if we don't wish to see a repeat of some of the horrors we have seen.
"The EU must take a clear position and engage with member states to ensure that adequate measures are taken."
The event also saw the launch of a survey by the foundation on the prevalence and prominence of radicalisation in Belgium.
The results of the study will be launched in spring 2013 and, it was said, will produce a "clear picture of the issue in Belgium".
The issue in Belgium is topical with Alain Winants, Director of the Belgian state security service, last week warning about the scale of radicalisation.
He said it was a "greater threat" to Belgian and European society than the threat of terrorist attacks.