In Belgium, racism and discrimination is a larger problem than radicalization

The New York Times reports: Yves Goldstein makes no excuses for Belgium’s failure to find Salah Abdeslam and the other Islamic State recruits who attacked Paris and then bombed Brussels Airport and a subway station.

The problem is not Islam, he insists, but the negligence of government officials like himself in allowing self-contained ethnic ghettos to grow unchallenged, breeding anger, crime and radicalism among youth — a soup of grievances that suits Islamist recruiters.

“Our cities are facing a huge problem, maybe the largest since World War II,” Mr. Goldstein said. “How is it that people who were born here in Brussels, in Paris, can call heroes the people who commit violence and terror? That is the real question we’re facing.”

Friends who teach the equivalent of high school seniors in the predominantly Muslim districts of Molenbeek and Schaerbeek told him that “90 percent of their students, 17, 18 years old, called them heroes,” he said.

Mr. Goldstein, 38, grew up in Schaerbeek, the child of Jewish refugees from Nazism. Now a councilman from Schaerbeek, he is also chief of staff for the minister-president of the Brussels Capital Region. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: To feel apart, even isolated, is not uncommon for a Muslim from Schaerbeek, the third-poorest commune in Belgium and one with a long history of racism.

More than Molenbeek, where many of the Paris and Brussels attackers lived, Schaerbeek is a mixed community with a sizable number of native Caucasian Belgians as well as Muslims from Turkey and Morocco.

Yet despite its heterogeneity, the groups still live in somewhat segregated communities.

Mustapha Chairi, a Schaerbeek native and now the head of the Collective Against Islamophobia in Belgium, remembers how when he was a boy, the mayor, Roger Nols, made no bones about his loathing for immigrants from North Africa.

In at least one election year, 1986, he donned ethnic Moroccan clothes, mounted a camel and rode to the central square to declare, “In 20 years all of Schaerbeek will look like this unless you vote for me,” Mr. Chairi recalled.

He stayed in office for 19 years. [Continue reading…]

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