As the world continues to grapple with Friday’s Paris terror attacks, one piece of intelligence that has emerged deserves special attention: According to French authorities, the man behind the attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, is a Belgian national. This and/or other intelligence has triggered a crackdown in Belgium, where police have begun searching homes in Molenbeek, a largely Muslim neighborhood that stands close to Brussels and is known for being a hotbed of Islamic radicalism. The searches are presumably an attempt to reassert control, as Belgian officials have recently admitted that they have not had a handle on the area (h/t Jonah Goldberg):
Belgium’s home affairs minister said that the government does not “have control of the situation in Molenbeek,” a working-class neighborhood of Brussels that has been linked to several terrorism plots in recent years.
Speaking on the VRT television channel on Sunday, the minister, Jan Jambon, said that the government would “step up efforts” to bring order to the area of the Belgian capital. […]
Prime Minister Charles Michel of Belgium said he was also concerned about jihadist networks in Molenbeek.
“I notice that each time there is a link with Molenbeek,” he said. “This is a gigantic problem. Apart from prevention, we should also focus more on repression.”
For context on the situation in Belgium, an excellent place to begin is Robert Carle’s piece in our pages on the situation in the EU’s very capital:
In Undercover in Little Morocco, Moroccan-Belgian journalist Hind Fraihi reported on the prevalence of jihadi attitudes among young people in Molenbeek, one of Brussels’s largest Muslim enclaves. She found that the young men in Molenbeek talk about martyrdom in a way she hadn’t experienced even when she was in Israel. “They truly dream of their private hero tale”, Fraihi said, “A few live with their head already in paradise. And yes, they truly believe in those virgins that wait for you.” Fraihi reported that the Muslim youth in Molenbeek routinely refer to Belgians as “unbelievers” and boast about how they rob Belgians in order to support global jihad. In June 2011, the American advertising agency BBDO abandoned its offices in Molenbeek after citing over 150 assaults on its staff by local youth […]
One of the most vexing problems facing Belgian authorities is the large number of Belgian youth who have been drawn to jihad in Syria. An International Center for the Study of Radicalization (ICSR) report estimates that at least 440 Belgian youth are fighting in Syria. Belgian youth are twice as likely to become foreign fighters in Syria as French youth, more than four times as likely as English youth, and more than twenty times as likely as American youth.
There is not likely to be an easy answer to this challenge—though Carle looks at one effort to de-radicalize Belgium Muslims using methods similar to “techniques that help young people leave gangs”—but surely one place to start is to get a handle on the situation on the ground. Read the whole thing.