Longtime Belgian Mayor: A Godfather of Jihad?
- “Instead of bombing Raqqah, France should be bombing Molenbeek.” — Eric Zemmour, French journalist.
- No one, at least outside Belgium, is talking about Molenbeek’s long-time anti-Semitic mayor and the alliance with radical Islamists that secured his power.
- The majority of the terrorists who have appeared in Europe in recent times originated from a single neighborhood, six square-kilometers in size — an astounding concentration.
- “[T]here are more veiled women here in Molenbeek than in Casablanca.” — Resident interviewed by investigative reporter Gilles Gaetner.
- The many shops run by Jews suddenly disappeared in 2008 after harassment and threats by local “youths.” How did Mayor Moureaux react? By accusing Belgian Jews of wanting to deny Muslims the “right to diversity.”
- It is supposed to be Israel’s fault when the Arabs of Belgium — and especially those of Molenbeek — have a bad reputation? This type of anti-Semitic resentment is unfortunately not only typical for Moureaux, but for his entire party.
The Molenbeek district of Brussels is considered Europe’s “terrorist factory.” At least three of the perpetrators of the November terrorist attacks in Paris came from there: Ibrahim Abdeslam, Abdelhamid Abaaoud and the remaining fugitive Salah Abdeslam. The list does not stop there. The Viennese daily newspaper “Die Presse” writes:
“Molenbeek already made headlines for the first time in 2001: Abdessatar Dahmane, the murderer of the Afghan war hero and horror of the Taliban, Ahmed Schah Massoud, was also a regular at the Islamic center at 18 Rue du Manchester, known for its radical views; as well as Hassan El Haski, who was presumed behind the attacks in Casablanca (41 dead in 2003) and Madrid (200 victims in 2004). The weapons that were used in the attacks on the French satirical paper “Charlie Hebdo” in January 2015 came from Molenbeek. The French jihadist Mehdi Nemouche, who caused a bloodbath in the Brussels Jewish Museum the previous year, lived here. In August 2015, Ayoub El Khazzani started out from here on his attempt to attack a train from Amsterdam to Paris.”
The two jihadists killed by Belgian police in January, in Verviers, came from Molenbeek. The terrorist Amedy Coulibaly, who attacked the HyperCacher kosher supermarket in Paris, also spent time in Molenbeek.
The majority of the terrorists who have appeared in Europe in recent times originated from a single neighborhood, six square-kilometers in size — an astounding concentration. Belgium is, in relation to the size of its population, the greatest European exporter of fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Most of them — at least 48 — come from Molenbeek. “Instead of bombing Raqqah,” says the French journalist Eric Zemmour, “France should be bombing Molenbeek.”
More than half the population of Molenbeek is Muslim; a quarter come from Morocco — such as the Paris attackers. “You know, there are more veiled women here in Molenbeek than in Casablanca,” says a resident interviewed by investigative reporter Gilles Gaetner of the French news portal “Atlantico.” Gaetner does consider that “surely an exaggeration,” but admits: “When one walks the streets of this Brussels district, with its nearly 96,000 residents, one is overcome by a bizarre impression. Not only would you think you were no longer in the Kingdom of Belgium, but an oppressive atmosphere reigns here.”
Foreign reporters are only now discovering Molenbeek. Those who have to live there have been complaining about the conditions there for a long time. The following excerpt is from a report by the Belgian weekly magazine Le Vif L’Express from 2011:
Buildings in danger of collapsing, street corners that are becoming landfills, a parked car rusts away in a parking lot: Urban renewal would be helpful here. “This is a gangster district. Here you get beat up for five Euros,” says Karim. The shopkeeper is not happy. He talks about how he recently chased a teenager with a knife in his hand, who had stolen cigarettes. This scene took place just steps away from the Ribaucourt subway station. “The Rue Piers is not safe at this hour,” says a young woman, who after 6pm either makes sure she is accompanied home, or else takes a taxi. She has been living with friends in an apartment in the district for three years. The apartment is large, and not too expensive. “But I am always vigilant,” she says. Especially when she is wearing a skirt. “Insults, spitting, groping: I have experienced that.” Other residents are moving out. “My house was burglarized twice within one year,” says a witness. “When I go to the supermarket around the corner, I double-lock the door and turn on the alarm.”
Testimonials to a city in fear. Much of the responsibility for this apparently rests with Philippe Moureaux, member of the Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste), who was mayor of Molenbeek from 1992 until 2012. Confronted with the complaints of his citizens, he regularly denied the unsustainable conditions in his town: “It makes me angry when people pick out tiny details and lie about them,” he said in the quoted report. Molenbeek is “not the Bronx;” the problems with criminality only concern a small number of streets, said Moureaux.
Then Moureaux showed his true colors: “Molenbeek is a symbol that certain people want to destroy. But only over my dead body.” Certain people? Does the mayor actually believe in a conspiracy against his district of misery? One does not have to search for long to realize that Moureaux, on whose initiative Belgium passed an “anti-racism law” in 1981, is an anti-Semite — not exactly common even in Belgium. At the same time, he downplays and supports the violence of young Muslims — also against Jews.
|Abdelhamid Abaaoud (left), suspected by French authorities of masterminding this month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, is — like many terrorists in Europe — from Molenbeek, Belgium. Philippe Moureaux (right) was mayor of Molenbeek for 20 years, thanks to his alliance with radical Islamists.|
There was heavy rioting in 2009 during Ramadan in Molenbeek. Muslim youths set up barricades made of burning tires, set cars ablaze, threw rocks at firefighters who came to put out fires and, equipped with rocks and crowbars, looted stores. According to unconfirmed reports, the police received the following order: “Do not provoke them, do not search them, do not intervene, even if dozens of them come together, do not issue warnings for harassment, not even if they throw rocks at you.”
Jewish shop-owners were also harassed other than at Ramadan. In 2008, the Flemish magazine Dag Allemaal reported on “youths” yelling, “The Jews are our worst enemies,” in the streets of Molenbeek. There used be many stores run by Jews on the Rue du Prado and the Chaussée de Grand in Molenbeek, but in 2008, with the exception of one furniture store, they suddenly disappeared. And nobody seemed bothered by this, especially not Mayor Moureaux.
None of the Jews wanted to speak with the Dag Allemaal reporter, out of fear of reprisals. The one exception was a man whom the paper referred to as “René.” René ran a barbershop for over 30 years in the Chaussée de Gand. Then came a series of acts of violence. It began with graffiti on his shop’s windows: “Sale youpin” (“dirty Jew”) and other anti-Semitic slogans. Later on, six Muslim youths stormed into his shop, destroyed the furnishings and punched René in the face. He called the police. An hour later, the youths returned in order to “punish” him; they broke all the mirrors. For more than 35 years, René had built up a large and loyal customer base, but after this attack, most people were afraid to visit his shop. He had no other choice but to close it.
How did Moureaux react? By accusing Belgian Jews of wanting to deny Muslims the “right to diversity.” That is what he said in 2008, in the weekly paper Le Vif L’Express. It was a report with the title: “Enquête Moureaux, Shérif de Molenbeek, drogué du pouvoir – Son islamo-municipalisme” (“The Moureaux Investigation: Sheriff of Molenbeek, addicted to power — His Islamo-municipalism”). That he was “addicted to power” (“drogué du pouvoir”) were his own words. The paper described him as a “soaring intellectual, university professor and brilliant minister, who resides in the beautiful Uccle district.”
But back to Moureaux’s Jews: At 20 years old, Moureaux was a Marxist, he said, and never accepted anybody’s right to diversity; but he “evolved”: “What changed my mind were talks with the representatives of the Jewish community. It saddens me today to see how they deny the Muslims the right to diversity.”
This “right to diversity” was not granted to citizens by Moureaux during Ramadan. In a press release with the title, “Ramadan regulations for everyone,” Moureaux appealed to citizens in August 2011 to stop driving into the center of Molenbeek in the afternoon during the month of Ramadan, because Muslims are doing their shopping there.
In January 2015, after the massacre of the staff of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the murder of four Jews in Paris’s HyperCacher supermarket, the now-retired mayor gave an interview to Maghreb TV, a channel broadcast via the internet, the target audience for which is North Africans in Belgium. After he made an appeal not to hold all Muslims responsible for the actions of a few terrorists, it got wild:
“Many have an interest in dividing us. … Unfortunately, these people can be found everywhere. There is a contagion of the problems of the Middle East, in the Near East, the Israeli-Palestinian problem, which leads to some having an interest in provoking local disagreements, like a reflex to what happens over there. … It will be said that it is coming from both sides. But it is obvious that they are trying to create hatred for Arabs here in the West, in order to justify the policies of the state of Israel, policies that appear unacceptable to me.”
It is supposed to be Israel’s fault when the Arabs of Belgium — and especially those of Molenbeek — have a bad reputation? This type of anti-Semitic resentment is unfortunately not only typical for Moureaux, but for his entire party. In March 2013, the Socialists of Molenbeek issued an invitation to an event titled: “What if we freely and calmly spoke about Zionism?” On the invitation flyer was an anti-Semitic caricature, drawn in the style of Der Stürmer, by the Arabic neo-Nazi “Zéon.” After loud protests, the Socialists cancelled the event — on the grounds that the aspired-to “calm” discussion was unfortunately no longer possible.
Many examples can be listed to show what an anti-Semitic environment prevails in Molenbeek. In the official town magazine, “Molenbeek Info,” one can find a text in which the Stalinist Party of Work calls for a celebration in honor of Dr. Hanne Bosselaers, who had just returned from Gaza: “Everybody come!” In Molenbeek, you need to know, there is a hospital run by Stalinists under the name “Medicine for the People” (“Medécine pour le peuple”), which in 2013 initiated a “partnership” with Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza. Consequently, Bosselaers had a lot to talk about. For example: “The Palestinians want us to boycott Israel.”
And what did Dr. Bosselaers have to say about Hamas?
“Behind the attempt of some of our politicians to cast the Palestinian resistance organization in a negative light lies a political goal. Certain circles keep pointing out the “Islamic character” of Hamas, in the hope of keeping the population from forming solidarity with the Palestinians…. The Palestinian resistance is much greater than Hamas, and it is completely up to the Palestinians to decide which form of resistance they choose against their oppressors.”
Welcome to Molenbeek. The jurist Etienne Dujardin recently wrote in the news portal Levif.bethat the conditions in Islamist terror districts such as Molenbeek, Verviers or Saint Denis also had something to do with the deliberate efforts of some politicians, who find welcome campaign workers in radical Islamic circles:
“[p]arties have been practicing a form of cronyism based on elections; they all used the same radical mosques as mouthpieces for their election campaigns. Some saw them as a massive pool of easily available votes.”
And that is how it seems Mayor Moureaux observed that he could personally profit from the transformation of Molenbeek into a bastion of jihad. As he himself lives in a wealthy district, he was able to reject with great arrogance citizens who complained about excessive crime. He won elections by catering to radical Islam. Once again, the rule is confirmed: If someone agitates against Israel, it is always a symptom of other serious character flaws in that person. Behind the anti-Israel agitation of Moureaux lay a corrupt mayor, who only cared for his office and his income; who, as he himself said, was “addicted to power.” That his town was transforming into a hell of criminality, anti-Semitism and Sharia, he either did not care about or actually welcomed. Those who fled from Molenbeek could no longer participate; and those who moved there liked what Moureaux was doing: encouraging Islamization and agitating against Israel and Jews. This is how Molenbeek became, during the term in office of just one man, what it is today.
Originally published in German in slightly different form by Audiatur Online.
Belgian Breeding Ground Fuels New Terror Wave
by Abigail R. Esman,,Special to IPT News
Time was, thoughts of Belgium led to thoughts of rich, dark chocolate, of Old Master painters and delicate, handmade lace.
Now it brings a different image: of Islamic jihad and men armed with Kalashnikovs, and of secret meetings of Muslim youth plotting a new attack against the West. The country is in lockdown today, facing what authorities believe is an “imminent attack.” On Sunday, police raided 19 homes in and around Brussels, and made 16 arrests. Brussels continues to be the focus of their action.
There is good reason for this. The Nov. 13 massacres in Paris, we’ve since learned, were planned in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, sometimes called “little Morocco” for its large Moroccan immigrant population. The attack on Charlie Hebdo also was planned there, along with the foiled attack on a Thalys high-speed train between Brussels and Amsterdam. Mehdi Nemmouche, who killed four people at the Brussels Jewish Museum in May 2014, spent time there.
But it isn’t only Molenbeek, and it isn’t only recently. Belgium has been a hotbed of radical Islam for more than a decade, breeding organizations like Sharia4Belgium – one of the most influential “Sharia4” groups globally – and the now-defunct Arab European League (AEL). The goal of the AEL, founded by the Lebanese-Belgian Dyab Abou Jahjah in 2001, was to form a “sharocracy” in which sharia and democracy ruled together across the West. The organization was based in Antwerp, where Jahjah and his friends also celebrated the attacks of 9/11 with laughter. “We couldn’t hold our joy,” he recalled later in his autobiography.
Other signs of radicalism, also connected to Jahjah, soon followed; in 2002, Jahjah helped orchestrate riots in Borgenhout, outside of Antwerp. And in 2004, after establishing a Dutch arm of the AEL, he declared, “I consider every death of an American, British, and Dutch soldier a victory.”
Jahjah was hardly alone. By 2006, Belgian journalist Hind Fraihi, herself a Muslim, discovered that books teaching Muslims to fight infidels were being freely distributed by radical imams who preached jihad in local mosques. Other books she found in Belgium included Guide For Muslims, a Dutch publication that encourages Muslims to throw homosexuals from tall buildings and to beat their wives. A Washington Post profile of Fraihi cited other books she found, including some that “advised readers to learn to communicate in symbols and secret code, and offered tips on how to do that.”
But the largest influence on Belgian Muslims, and the source of much of their extremism, was the creation of Sharia4Belgium in 2010. Thanks to that group, Belgium boasts the largest number of Muslims per capita who have joined the Islamic State and its jihad. According to the Wall Street Journal and others, “dozens” of Sharia4Belgium members have made the pilgrimage to Syria, and dozens more have been detained before they could make the trip. Three of them, all women, were arrested in May 2014, around the time of the Jewish Museum shooting. They were part of a larger group of 40 Belgians planning to join the jihad, and most of them had Sharia4Belgium ties.
This should not have been surprising. By 2012, Belgium’s security service director Alain Winants determined that “radical Islam forms the greatest threat” to the country. Salafism, he told Belgian daily de Morgen, is gaining followers who have built up a parallel community with its own values, its own banks, justice system, and educational program.
Sharia4Belgium’s founder, Fouad Belkacem, was tried and convicted in September 2014 for supporting terrorism, along with dozens of other Sharia4Belgium members, some of whom are still on the Syrian battlefields. But by then it was too late. The group, with its active Dutch- and French-speaking recruiters in Belgium, France, the Netherlands and – most of all – the Internet, had already infiltrated the minds of untold numbers of other Belgian youth.
And still, no one seems to be watching.
This is due in part to limits of Belgium’s intelligence facilities. While German intelligence, for instance, is currently stretched to its limits trying to track potential terrorists, Der Spiegel reports that Belgium’s threat has long since exceeded the its own intelligence capabilities.
Indeed, according to Dutch NOS TV, “the central counterterrorism unit of the [Belgian] police department has only one employee tracking radical [Islamic] activity on the Internet. And she only works part time.” The result, notes Der Spiegel, is that “many Muslims who have become radicalized or received military training and may even have been traumatized are returning home from Syria without anyone checking on them whatsoever.”
Moreover, Belgium’s disorganized police system – with six authorities for 19 districts in Brussels alone – coupled with a chaotic government and the European capital’s convenient location at the midway point between Amsterdam and Paris –combine to help French and Dutch Islamists take refuge there. Two of the Paris attackers, the French-born Bilal Hafdi and Brahim Abdelslam, were among them.
As recently as last month, an exploratory committee determined that Belgian police had failed to notice, let alone monitor, a “jihad camp” set up by Kurdish PKK members and Sharia4Belgium in the Ardennes.
But the truth is, the country’s “capabilities” are only part of the problem: political timidity and correctness carry a good share of the blame. Suspicious behaviors are too often overlooked for fear of being called “racist,” Alain Winants told de Morgen in 2012. That viewpoint has since been echoed in Belgian editorials since the Paris attacks, with journalist Luckas Vander Taelen noting that Molenbeek’s mayor had once called a journalist “Islamophobic” for reporting on the radical Islamic books being distributed there. “There are no problems here,” the mayor insisted at the time.
Since the Nov. 13 attacks, however, Belgium has rounded up dozens of jihadists, with nine raids leading to nine arrests on Thursday preceding Sunday’s additional raids. The speed with which these terrorists were located suggests that authorities were aware of them prior to the events in Paris. So why weren’t they captured earlier? Was it a matter of incompetence? Or a kind of narcissistic concern over image, a fear, as Winants suggests, of being seen as “racist?”
Hopefully, Belgium has now learned its lesson. The fight against terrorism is not a popularity contest. It’s a contest we fight for our lives.
Abigail R. Esman, the author, most recently, of Radical State: How Jihad Is Winning Over Democracy in the West (Praeger, 2010), is a freelance writer based in New York and the Netherlands.