In September 2001, Europeans might have felt comfortable thinking that Al-Qaeda was only a scourge to the United States; some indulged in the unkind speculation that the United States had only itself to blame for 9/11. That innocence is now gone in the wake of attacks in Madrid and London. Since then Europe has oscillated through a range of stances in relation to Islamist terrorism, varying from country to country and across the political spectrum. In Freedom or Terror, Russell A. Berman offers an analysis of Europe’s ambivalence toward jihadist terror and the spread of aggressive Islamism, with particular emphasis on the European responses—or lack thereof—to Islamist terrorism.
Berman describes how some European countries opt for appeasing and apologizing for terror, whereas others stand up for freedom. In individual chapters he examines the responses of England, France, Germany, and the smaller nations: Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. He also analyzes the dialectic of genocide and terror in Bosnia. Each country addresses the issues in light of its particular institutions and national history. Ultimately, the author argues that the European responses to Islamist terrorism involve the confrontation of contemporary postmodern European culture with the extremist values of jihadist radicals. Whether Europe is truly up to the challenge will only become clear in the struggles of the next decade.