Molenbeek, Belgium’s Present and (Perhaps), Europe’s Future

by Andrew Stuttaford

Belgium’s 7Sur7 is reporting that an official police ‘watchdog’ has reported that the police don’t ‘dare’ patrol parts of Brussels’ Molenbeek district. They will go into ‘quartiers chauds’ only when strictly necessary or in response to a call for help.

Meanwhile, Dan Hannan connects some dots. He observes how the traditional division between Flemings and (French-speaking) Walloons has drained the idea of Belgium of, well, just about everything, and then asks:

But where does this leave, say, a Moroccan-origin boy in Molenbeek? What is there for him to be part of? Neither Flemish nor Walloon, his every interaction with the Belgian state will have taught him to despise it. If he got any history at all in school, it will have been presented to him as a hateful chronicle of racism and exploitation. Is it any wonder that he is in the market for something stronger, more assertive?

And long before ISIS,  their Saudi predecessors were on the case.

The Independent:

There are many reasons why Belgium has become a hotbed of radical Islamism. Some of the answers may lie in the implanting of Saudi Salafist preachers in the country from the 1960s. Keen to secure oil contracts, Belgium’s King Baudouin made an offer to Saudi King Faisal, who had visited Brussels in 1967: Belgium would set up a mosque in the capital, and hire Gulf-trained clerics.

At the time, Belgium was encouraging Moroccan and Turkish workers to come into the country as cheap labour. The deal between the two Kings would make the mosque their main place of worship.

Brussels already had the perfect place. An oriental pavilion designed by Belgian architect Ernest Van Humbeek had been built in the capital’s Cinquantenaire park in 1879, but was falling into disuse. The 1967 deal gave the Saudis a 99-year, rent-free lease. The pavilion was refashioned by the Saudis, opening in 1978 as the Great Mosque of Brussels, as well as the seat of the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium (ICC).

Although the mosque was treated as the official voice of Muslims in Belgium, its radical Salafist teachings came from a very different tradition to the Islam of the new immigrants. Today, there are around 600,000 people of Moroccan and Turkish origin in Belgium, a country of 11 million.

“The Moroccan community comes from mountainous regions and rift valleys, not the desert. They come from the Maliki school of Islam, and are a lot more tolerant and open than the Muslims from other regions like Saudi Arabia,” says George Dallemagne, a Belgian member of parliament for the centre-right CDH, an opposition party. “However, many of them were re-Islamified by the Salafist clerics and teachers from the Great Mosque. Some Moroccans were even given scholarships to study in Medina, in Saudi Arabia.”

Mr Dallemagne says the Salafist clerics have tried to undermine attempts by Moroccan immigrants to integrate into Belgium. “We like to think Saudi Arabia is an ally and friend, but the Saudis are always engaged in double-talk: they want an alliance with the West when it comes to fighting Shias in Iran, but nonetheless have a conquering ideology when it comes to their religion in the rest of the world,” he said.”

But, but, the Saudis are our friends…..

None of this, of course, is to claim that all this is just a Belgian problem, but Belgium is of particular interest for reasons that extend beyond the country’s involvement in the Paris attacks.  As Hannan points out, Belgium is, in some senses a model for what those steering the EU would like Europe to become:

Belgium is, so to speak, a mini-EU, a multi-national state whose political system is held together largely by public spending. There is no Belgian language, no Belgian culture, no Belgian history.

So far as culture (scrolls through his ipod until he reaches Le Plat Pays) and history are concerned, that’s an exaggeration, but Dan’s broader point about the continent’s planned ‘Belgian’ future holds good:

The ruling ideology holds that the nation-state is both dangerous and passé. We are all Europeans now, and our state flags will eventually go the way of our state passports – subsumed into a post-national EU.

The idea that such a creation will appeal (in any deep sense) to the loyalty of many of those living within its borders is absurd.

They will instead turn to something else….

This report from the Washington Post gives yet another hint of what lies ahead:

A senior German police official says some of the migrants reaching Europe are Islamic State radicals planning terrorist attacks, but the refugee influx is not systemically used by extremists to bring members into the EU. The Austria Press Agency cited German federal police chief Hans-Georg Maasen as saying that some who blend in with the migrants fought with IS and are planning a “combat mission” once they arrive in Europe. He said Thursday that his office knows of 7,900 Islamic radicals in Germany who advocate violence to advance their goals, with some trying to win migrants to their cause. He said German authorities receive one or two “fairly concrete tips” a week of planned terrorist activity. And he described IS extremists as “combat-hardened professionals” more dangerous than those from al-Qaida…

The Corner

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