Those who have been closely watching developments in France following Friday’s series of terror attacks have no doubt heard mention of a specific neighborhood in Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
The neighborhood is called Molenbeek, and it has been referred to as the jihadist capital of Europe, as it is literally tied in somehow to virtually all major Islamist attacks in Europe since the 1990s.
According to an in-depth piece by The Washington Post, Molenbeek is an area in central Brussels that is largely Muslim and has become a breeding ground for radical Islamist ideology.
Belgian police made a number of raids in the neighborhood over the weekend, arresting numerous individuals tied to the Paris attacks and seizing weapons and other material no doubt destined to be used in future attacks.
“The terrible attacks that were directed against us on Friday were prepared abroad by a group of individuals based in Belgium who, as the investigation will show, benefited from accomplices in France,” French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in Paris on Sunday.
“There is almost always a link with Molenbeek. That’s a gigantic problem of course,” declared Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.
When asked why his government hasn’t done anything to shut down the jihadists in the neighborhood, Michel said his country “has already taken a number of initiatives at the preventive level. But in addition, there needs to be more repression. We’re going to work hard on that.”
The neighborhood, only a short distance away from the European Union headquarters, is an interesting mixture of wealth and poverty, bustling commercial areas combined with high unemployment and lavish hotels near rundown homes on not-so-safe blocks.
“It doesn’t surprise me, because radical and political Islam in Belgium is something that grew up through the years,” said Bilal Benyaich, a senior fellow at a prestigious think tank that studies radical Islam.
“The fact that many people feel they will never make it, don’t stand a chance in society and envy others — this makes fertile grounds for recruiting.”
He went on to note that many residents are receptive to calls to violence from the radical minority and pointed out that Belgium has actually contributed the most European-born fighters to the Islamic State group on a per capita basis.
The mostly Muslim neighborhood was originally settled by Moroccans and Turks some 50 years ago, but has since welcomed many Libyans and Egyptians. Other Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia have contributed vast amounts of money to build mosques and Islamic centers, spreading their wahabbi version of radicalized Islam.
“In Molenbeek, we do not have things under control at this moment,” declared Interior Minister Jan Jambon. “There we need to make an extra effort.”
Benayich added, “Every society gets the radicals that it deserves. We created these monsters. Whether we like them or not, they are still a product of our system.”
This is where the Paris terror attacks likely originated, as well as the Paris train attack and the murderous assault on Charlie Hebdo that occurred earlier in the year. Hopefully, Belgian authorities will figure out a way to remove the threat that this Muslim neighborhood in central Brussels poses to the rest of Europe.