Are there unsafe areas in Antwerp, Belgium
Islamism in Belgium : "Molenbeek is harmless compared to other places"
Mr Abou Jahjah, after the terror in Paris, many traces of the attackers lead to Molenbeek. What's wrong there?
A lot. I want to emphasize, however, that it is shortened now to point the finger at Molenbeek. Molenbeek has a lot of problems: poverty, exclusion, criminal gangs. But also a lot of positive, beautiful sides. For example, I really enjoy going shopping there. You can get anything you want in the market. My wife and I are considering buying a house. We want to move to Molenbeek.
But not only Belgian media write that Molenbeek is the “capital of European terror”.
That is fatal and dangerous. Molenbeek has the profile of any other migrant neighborhood in Europe. The rest of society is scared when there are many Muslims and veiled women walking around Molenbeek. These people have no choice, they cannot get an apartment anywhere else and are excluded. Molenbeek is not a ghetto, you can go in there. Some of the banlieues of Paris are much more cut off from the rest of society.
Like many radical jihadists, they estimate, there are in Molenbeek.
You can't say for sure. However, it is known that around 40 people from Molenbeek traveled to Syria to join the “Islamic State”. 100,000 people live in Molenbeek. You have to put that in relation. There are also more problematic places in Belgium. It is much worse in Flanders in particular.
Antwerp - and the city is much smaller than Brussels, which is small anyway - has produced 100 jihadists. The city of Vilovoorde is even smaller and radicals feel at home there.
What's wrong in Flanders?
If you are a young Muslim in Flanders, the chances are very high that you will leave school early. Then you are on the street. The police consistently call you “Makak” or “Hond” in Flemish. They control you at every opportunity on the street. You don't get a job. And some of these characters, by the time they are 17 or 18, become easy prey for hate preachers and ISIS recruitment programs.
And why does the IS HR department feel so comfortable there?
A comparison seems to me to be very valuable here. In the Netherlands, with a population of 16.5 million, just over 160 Islamists have radicalized. In Belgium with its 11 million inhabitants more than 400. The Flemish racism, which is also rampant at the top of the decision-makers, meets the lack of prospects for young Muslims and their identity crisis. Then an IS sympathizer comes around the corner and offers you an easy solution. A few take hold of it. Belgium also has very good relations with Saudi Arabia. No Saudi preacher is denied a visa, they come here and spread their Wahabism. From there, it is only a small step to IS.
How are Muslims in Belgium reacting to the attacks in Paris and now the anti-terrorist measures in Molenbeek?
Firstly, it is important to me that we do not call the attackers Muslims. The terrorists claim that they profess Islam. And Islam is a very diverse religion. This also means that a small number of Muslims use violence. The clear majority, almost all Muslims, are afraid. If someone is repeatedly affected by this violence, it is Muslims. You can easily die yourself. These terrorists kill people indiscriminately on the streets. Then Muslims are attacked by right-wing parties, and not just verbally by right-wing extremists. Another threat to life and limb. The police are targeting Muslims and people with black hair and dark skin. Because of course the police know what a terrorist looks like. And then Muslims still have to justify themselves, apologize, distance themselves. For many, if they remain silent, they automatically sympathize with terror. It's all so crazy. I don't want to be a woman with a headscarf in Belgium or France these days.
François Hollande has declared war on terror.
That is exactly the right word. France bombs IS positions in Syria. IS attacks French citizens in Paris. I also call it war.
What is this war doing to you personally?
I have to do a lot of interviews. Journalists talk to me - only when there is violence. You come to Molenbeek - only if a terrorist is holed up there. And then there are the very personal stories. My wife's parents came to Belgium from Morocco. She grew up here and tells me stories, because my hair stands on end. Everywhere you are looked at and treated because of your skin color, because of your name. For me, racism and radicalization are related. For example, a companion of mine drifted away. First of all, we wanted to work together for equality for all people in Belgium. One day he told me that he felt like he was running into walls. "Dyab, they will never accept us, they will always discriminate against us," were his words. A few years later he founded the radical group “Sharia for Belgium”. You let the racist shit patter on you all your life, then comes a moment when you can't take it anymore. Very few Muslims then choose the wrong path. We have to get out of this dilemma somehow.
What can Muslims and what can the community do about it?
In Belgium, and also in Molenbeek, most Muslims are of Moroccan descent. I firmly believe that you have to support these people. Instead of the politically deliberate neglect, we need investment programs now. Unfortunately, I am less optimistic about Belgium. There is a lack of political will. It can be so simple. The imams in the mosques, for example, need to be strengthened. Most imams tell me very clearly how much they detest and dislike violence. But they are fearful and shy away from confrontation with their own believers. The majority of society views them skeptically, and so do Muslims. You are under enormous pressure. Then such a Saudi comes and takes the confused, young souls.
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