Global Independent Analytics

Paris attack: Why Belgium is at the heart of a destructive wave of terror in Europe

The nation's authorities realise that complacency towards extremism has allowed fundamentalist influences to fester

Leo Cendrowicz, an INDEPENDENT author, suggests: clement relations with terrorists have eventually led to prevalence of radical conceptions.

Today Belgium drew unusual attention by becoming an Islamist backyard: it was announced by police, who pursued terrorists until their secret control center located in the filthy shabby neighborhood of the Molenbeek district of Brussels. It is believed that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the native Belgian, contrived Paris attacks at this address, where the 7 suspects have been arrested by police.

The group of Abaaoud is not a single example of Belgium involvement into world terrorist crisis: almost half a thousand of Belgians has left its habitation and headed to Syria to fight for extremist groups such as ISIS. Moreover, no other European country could contend with Belgium in number of foreign combatants.

The reason for these incidents involving single generation is unclear, but as assumed by Cendrowicz, the main causes might be “post-war immigration from north Africa, hate preachers, ghettos, poverty, and marginalision.” Furthermore, Belgian government has realized that due to lack of control over terrorists they have spread their destructive influence onto sensitive little brains of Belgian-born citizens of Moroccan origin, but now it is too late.

Although Belgium has been a subject to few extremist attacks, it still was involved into other crimes. Firstly, “[t]here are links to the murder of the Afghan anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Masoud – just before the September 2001 attacks in the US – and the Groupe Islamique Marocain Combattant (GICM), which had a major role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. In 2005, Muslim convert Muriel Degauque, became the first known female Western suicide bomber, when she blew herself up in Iraq”, Cendrowicz concluded.

Secondly, the Brussels’ Great Mosque is still operated by Saudi family that still holds the allowance to send fundamentalist preachers to Moroccan immigrants. Nonetheless, out of 474 Belgians who are reported to take part in Syrian conflict, 130 have came back, 77 have been killed and almost 270 are still staying there and it gave a boost to the Islamists. As disclosed by intelligence agencies, extremely brutal movement of ISIS is pivoting its ideology to a worldwide jihad.

Thirdly, the recent trial of Fouad Belkacem revealed a connection between Syria and Belgium: Belkacem, a leader of extremist Sharia4Belgium group, claimed to provide information and recruit soldiers for ISIS. He was condemned to 12 years of prison, the verdict for 44 other members was from 3 to 12 years; the majority of members was convicted in absentia as they were in Syria at the moment.

 The terrorist network turned out to be much more elaborated and intricate than it has been thought before; even after the elimination of several mosques after 2005 Madrid attacks, extremist groups still found a way to sneak out of the surveillance and to communicate by means of Internet such as social media and chat rooms.

All roads lead to depressed Belgian Molenbeek neighborhood, admits Charles Michel, Belgian Prime Minister, and suggests shutting some more of commune’s mosques. Brussels, being divided into 19 independent communes each with its own law enforcement system, proved inefficiency of such fracturing; moreover, the lack of Arabic-speaking officers in the intelligence services adds even more complexity.

Large Muslim communities in small and poor districts might be a reason to growing displeasure, says Bilal Beniyachi, a member of Brussels think factory. “This real or perceived sense of exclusion is combined with extreme Islam. All these problems come together in a complex process of indoctrination and alienation” cites him Cendrowicz.

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