The Irish Times view on the Isis arrest: policing the terror threat

Our own history has left us familiar with the radicalisation of young men and women who then turn to violence

T he arrest of an Irish citizen in Syria because he was allegedly fighting for Islamic State, also known as Isis, has demonstrated again the need for vigilance in this State. The threat from Islamist extremists in Europe reduced during 2018, with fewer terrorist attacks and a significantly reduced number of fatalities. But the killing of five people at a Christmas market in Strasbourg last month was a worrying reminder of the security climate which still endures in Europe.That said, there is no specific cause for alarm here.

Naturalised Irish citizen Alexandr Ruzmatovich Bekmirzaev (45), who is being detained in Syria, is believed by gardaí to have been radicalised while living in Dublin by a man who has since been deported to his native Jordan. Calls have been made for Bekmirzaev, originally from Belarus, to have his citizenship revoked. This would prevent him returning to live in Ireland if he is freed in Syria. One of the biggest risks of a terror attack in any European country comes from the return of foreign fighters after combat in Syria or Iraq.

Our own history has left us familiar with the radicalisation of young men and women who then turn to violence. But the challenges posed by international Islamist extremism are more complex. The language barrier alone, to say nothing of the cultural differences the Garda must overcome when investigating suspected Isis sympathisers, recruiters, financiers and fighters should not be underestimated. And the near monoculturalism of the Garda leaves it ill-equipped to build relationships with the Muslim community.

Some of the voices most vocal over the past week since the arrest of Bekmirzaev have been those of Irish-based Muslims calling for a harder line from the Government in its approach to Irish citizens who become Isis foreign fighters. By recruiting more Muslim members, the Garda would be better able to maintain the trust of the Muslim community and harvest intelligence from them, thereby minimising radicalisation and the potential threat posed by it.