Voices from Molenbeek

Evidence from a neighbourhood affected by violent extremism

Molenbeek became known as the home of Belgian jihadists. But is this really the whole story?

The European Institute of Peace carried out a comprehensive study of the two Molenbeek districts mostly affected by violent extremism.

Agenda /Speakers

• Speech of Mr. Bart Somers, Mayor of the city of Mechelen, Member of the Committee of the Regions, Rapporteur on how to combat radicalisation and violent extremism at local and regional level
• Presentation by Mr. Martin Griffiths, Director, European Institute of Peace
• Speech of Ms. Françoise Schepmans, Mayor of Molenbeek-Saint-Jean
• Insights from Mr. Amr Ahmed Abdo, Researcher, European Institute of Peace

Mr. Bart Somers got the first word. He went straight to the point and described what happens to a person who becomes radicalized. First, he is isolated from non-Muslims , so from differing views Muslims, to ultimately become isolated from family.

Prevention must happen early, you need information. The only way to get timely information, is that locals trust local authorities. To invest in lawless areas, getting into good role models, strengthen police and obtain jobs are the keys to success.

It is a struggle between those who want democracy and those who want a totalitarian society. To reach the young people we have to show young people the positive things about democracy. If you meet the threat to democracy with totalitarian instruments you lose. Then you have destroyed the culture you are trying to defend . Young people need to experience and learn about the good sides of democracy, that it is allowed to criticize, prohibition of discrimination, freedom and an inclusive society . If we look at Muslims as the enemy, we have gone into the trap of IS and creates enemies.

One must look at the alien warrior as a man you have lost from the local community , and one fails and not see resource you have lost, do not manage to include those who could become radicalized.

A society that loses its identity is vulnerable to radicalization . In Molenbeck as in most families that parent generation spoke only arabic , while the youth tried to learn French. Without it was mentioned I thought better French lessons for the young can be a good measure.

We may read in the rapport that the Molenbeekois do not support the extremist cause. They want a police force that is closer to the community.

There is a lack of credible community leaders  and role models. 

The shame is that in the report we may read that many young people have experienced not to be heard, they have been discriminated and not included. And there is probably both core to radicalization and the solution for a better society.

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