No Safe Haven
Belgium ought to look within.


After suicide bombers attacked the Belgian consulate in Casablanca in May, most Belgians should have realized that being supine to Islamic terrorists does not shelter them from Islamist wrath. The fact that the terrorists tried to attack the diplomatic facility of one of the most Muslim-friendly countries in the West should make it clear that they do not hate the West for its alleged pro-Israel bias or its colonial past: They simply hate it for what it is and for the values for which it stands.

Belgium is one of the bastions — if not the bastion — of European liberalism. It opposed the Iraq war, just one of the many examples of its left-leaning policies and sympathy for Muslim grievances.

In 1993, Belgium adopted a law that gives its courts jurisdiction over war crimes, regardless of where the offenses took place. The cases against Ariel Sharon and Gen. Tommy Franks are examples of how a well-intentioned law can be used to pursue a biased political agenda. The majority of Belgian media and politicians have welcomed these lawsuits in the name of human rights and universal justice.

Additionally, Belgium teams up with France in maintaining a strong pro-Palestinian position and in criticizing the U.S. for its firm hand in the war on terror. Despite the proven presence of al Qaeda cells in Belgium, local authorities have repeatedly refused to extradite alleged terrorists to other countries. One example is Belgian citizen Maaroufi Tarek, an alleged planner of the assassination of the Northern Alliance’s legendary general Massoud. Italian authorities have repeatedly requested that Belgium extradite Tarek for his involvement in terrorist activities but have been denied by Belgian courts.

Belgians must have thought that this behavior would have been favorably perceived by Islamists, inoculating Belgium from terrorism. Unfortunately — but to the surprise of no one save the Belgians — that has not been the case. Islamic radicals hate any authority, ideology, or religion that is not theirs; if you do not think like them you are an enemy.

Belgium has been extremely active in trying to solve the world’s problems, playing a role in the international arena that is disproportionate to its small size and economic power. But the small European nation should look within its borders and solve its own problems first. Not only does Belgium find itself in a deep economic recession, caused mainly by a disastrous welfare state, but the social unrest in its cities are a source of major concern.

Like every other western European country, in the last 40 years Belgium has welcomed waves of immigrants, mainly from Muslim countries. The sons of these immigrants now constitute an amazingly large segment of those living on welfare and committing crimes. As is happening in other European countries, these young men find it difficult to straddle the two cultures they inhabit, and are often lured into the trap of Islamic radicalism. An intelligence report recently presented to the Belgian senate warned that Belgium is a recruiting ground for Islamic militants, with at least one in ten mosques used to spread anti-Western ideas.

Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, is home to the Arab European League, a group founded by a former Hezbollah fighter, which advocates a form of separatism for Belgian Muslims, demanding segregated schools and the recognition of Arabic as the nation’s fourth language. Last year, the group sparked racial riots in this once-peaceful northern European city after a Moroccan man was shot dead by a Belgian neighbor.

Antwerp, the world’s diamond capital, has historically been home to a large Jewish community, which has always been respected. The last few years have seen a dramatic increase of attacks on local Jews and, as in France, most of the time the perpetrators are young Muslims.

The problem of integration becomes even more troubling in light of the astonishing growth rate of the Muslim community. Belgium’s 400,000 Muslims are only five percent of the population, but with immigration and a higher birth rate than that of native Belgians, Muslims will comprise a far higher percentage in a few years. Fifty-seven percent of the children born in Brussels are Muslims, which means that Belgium will be a completely different country in a few decades.

Nevertheless, mainstream Belgian politicians and the media refuse to have a serious debate on immigration, labeling as racist those who question Muslims’ willingness to integrate and to abide by Belgian law. Like Pim Fortuyn’s party in neighboring Holland, the Vlaams Blok party is trying to curb the wild flood of immigrants and to curtail the benefits that are automatically granted them once they reach Belgium, legally or illegally. Most newspapers refuse to publish interviews with Vlaams Blok leaders and politicians. The tactic has failed miserably: Vlaams Blok is the biggest party in Antwerp and Mechelen, gaining ground in most of Flanders.

The refusal of mainstream parties to address what is probably Belgium’s biggest problem is symptomatic of a general European reluctance to deal with issues deemed politically incorrect. But if the Europeans keep their heads in the sand, they will end up buried — six feet under.

Lorenzo Vidino is a research analyst for the Investigative Project.


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