Secunder Kermani writes: Most people in Molenbeek are rather sick of journalists – they resent the way they are portrayed in the media as a “jihadist capital of Europe”. But one phrase you often hear when foreign journalists attempt a vox pop is that “terrorism has nothing to do with Islam”.
Certainly, many of those who joined IS from the area did not come from particularly religious backgrounds.
Salah Abdeslam and his elder brother Brahim – who blew himself up in the Paris attacks – used to run a cafe in Molenbeek that sold alcohol and was closed down for drug offences. One friend of the brothers who used to hang out there told me he would regularly see Brahim Abdeslam “watching IS videos, with a joint in one hand, and a beer in another”. He said Brahim would spout off radical statements but that no-one took him seriously.
Another friend showed me a video from a Brussels nightclub of the two Abdeslam brothers on a night out with girls, drinking and dancing – this was February 2015, just months before they started to plan the attacks in Paris. [Continue reading…]