So ISIL has done it again. According to news reports as I write these words, more than 20 people have been killed and dozens injured in bomb explosions in Belgium, almost certainly in retaliation for the arrest of Salah Abdeslam and the killing of one of his accomplices there last week.
I'm very surprised that the suburb of Molenbeek in Brussels, long known to be a hotbed of fundamentalist Islamic tendencies and support for terrorism, has not been 'cleaned out' yet by security forces. I suppose that's European political correctness at work, as the Canadian Globe & Mail pointed out last year. (Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.)
After the [Paris] attacks, the world’s media descended on the Muslim neighbourhood of Molenbeek in order to probe the causes of the problem. They found that Belgium is a mess – a tangle of overlapping and warring political factions that are completely unable to manage the country’s security issues. This fragmentation is also cited as a major barrier to Muslim integration. Disaffected young people can’t develop a Belgian identity, because there isn’t one.
. . .
The belief that the modern progressive state can socially engineer its way to harmony – if only it tries hard enough – is a dangerous delusion.
Another view of Belgium is offered by Teun Voeten, a photographer who witnessed the aftermath of the Paris massacre. He lived in Molenbeek for nine years, but was eventually driven out by crime, disorder and intolerance. Places to buy alcohol disappeared, and Islamic bookshops spread. “Nowhere was there a bar or café where white, black and brown people would mingle,” he wrote on Politico. “Instead, I witnessed petty crime, aggression, and frustrated youths who spat at our girlfriends and called them ‘filthy whores.’ ” The Jewish shops, which were terrorized by young kids, moved away. So did openly gay people, who were harassed in the streets.
Mr. Voeten agrees that the messy state is a problem. But the more important factor is Belgium’s culture of denial. “The country’s political debate has been dominated by a complacent progressive elite who firmly believes society can be designed and planned. ... The debate is paralyzed by a paternalistic discourse in which radical Muslim youths are seen, above all, as victims of social and economic exclusion. Most people in Molenbeek are decent people who want the best for their families. But we should not close our eyes to the fact that it is also home to a very deep and very dangerous undercurrent of radical Islamism.”
. . .
Why are so many home-grown young Muslims (as well as a few converts) attracted to such a virulent form of faith? The common liberal answer is because they feel excluded. That answer strikes me as pathetically inadequate. A better answer would include a quest for meaning and purpose in a secular, postmodern world, and the attraction of an absolutist faith that offers certainty, structure and a chance for martyrdom and glory.
Job training and better transit aren’t going to fix that problem.
The attacks in Paris were a watershed. This time the terrorists’ targets were not cartoonists, Jews, or people openly critical of Islam, but anyone who happened to be in range. The target was secular society itself. And in its aftermath, many more people are daring to openly question whether some values simply cannot be reconciled with Western values. For all its faults and flaws, Europe is not the problem.
There's more at the link.
The Paris attacks in November last year revealed a high degree of technological sophistication on the part of the terrorists. That sophistication has enabled their accomplices to respond rapidly to last week's arrests by conducting further acts of terrorism at short notice. A French police analysis of last year's attacks shows how they probably did it. Here's an excerpt from a news report. (Again, bold, underlined text is my emphasis.)
Investigators have come to realise that the Paris attackers, sent by the Islamic State’s external operations wing, were well-versed in a range of terrorism tactics – like suicide vests, gunmen in various locations and hostage-taking – to hamper the police response, the report shows. They have exploited weaknesses in Europe’s border controls to slip in and out undetected, and worked with a high-quality forger in Belgium to acquire false documents.
. . .
French officials have repeatedly warned citizens that more attacks are possible, saying security and intelligence officials cannot track all the Europeans travelling to and from Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq. And western intelligence officials say their working assumption is that additional Islamic State terrorism networks are already in Europe, with more being formed.
. . .
The [Paris] attacks marked a subtle shift in the Islamic State’s external operations branch, which was first publicised in the group’s French-language online magazine, Daral-Islam, last March. In the previous small-scale attacks, the Islamic State, much like al-Qaeda before it, had taken aim at symbolic targets, including police and military installations and establishments with clear links to Israel or Jewish interests, like the Jewish Museum in Brussels. But in an interview published in the online magazine, a senior operative for the Islamic State, described as the godfather of French jihadis, advised his followers to abandon the symbolism. “My advice is to stop looking for specific targets. Hit everyone and everything,” he said.
. . .
New phones linked to the assailants at the stadium and the restaurant [in Paris] also showed calls to Belgium in the hours and minutes before the attacks, suggesting a rear base manned by a web of still unidentified accomplices. Security camera footage showed Bilal Hadfi, the youngest of the assailants, as he paced outside the stadium, talking on a cellphone. The phone was activated less than an hour before he detonated his vest. From 8.41pm until just before he died at 9.28pm, the phone was in constant touch with a phone inside the rental car being driven by Abaaoud. It also repeatedly called a cellphone in Belgium.
Again, more at the link.
Europe is simply going to have to learn - if necessary the hard way - that one can't treat terrorists as poor misguided children who only need to be shown the 'right way' in order to change. One can certainly take steps to address imbalances in society, but religious fundamentalism is another thing entirely. That can't be reformed by political means. (Europe has many examples of that reality, most recently the Northern Ireland 'troubles'.)
There's only one way to stop a terrorist - and that's permanently. Until Belgium (and all Europe) learns that lesson, and deals with its domestic terrorism problem accordingly, it'll suffer more attacks. What's worse, unless and until such terrorism is dealt with comprehensively, it'll engender an ever more vicious backlash against anything and anyone deemed (in popular opinion) to be associated with it. In other words, Europeans are going to become less and less tolerant of all shades and forms of Islam.
As Tamara so aptly puts it, Europeans can go from 'zero to jackboots' faster than you'd believe possible. They've done so many times in the past . . . and I strongly suspect that ordinary Europeans (with or without the support of their current political leaders) are about to do so once more.