They discussed why so many Belgian youngsters go to fight in Syria - a higher proportion, relative to the population, than from any other country in Europe. And a heated argument broke out when Suhaila, the only non-white recruit - from a Moroccan background, like many Belgian Muslims - said she could understand why young Muslims might become jihadis.
"The whole class was reacting - over-reacting," Jacobs says. "It was the first time they had talked with someone of a Moroccan background."
For a visitor to Brussels, where more than a quarter of the population is Muslim, that's a surprising thought. But Paul Jacobs is not surprised.
"I am a little bit scared to use this term," he says. "But I think we live in a system of apartheid. You really have ghettos. And what is more important, and more dangerous, is not that people aren't living together - it's the mental ghetto."[...]
"People in Brussels live side-by-side, but don't often meet one another," she says. She thinks divisions have been reinforced because many young Belgians of Moroccan and Turkish descent have reacted against anti-Muslim feeling since 9/11 by defiantly adopting a more religious identity.
"Young people want a Muslim identity," she says, "but they haven't read the Koran, so it's become a matter of slogans - that girls should wear hijab and boys should grow beards."[...]
A group of concerned Muslim women - some with sons already in Syria - asked Belgium's Interior Minister, Jan Jambon, to join them shortly after the Paris attacks at a meeting in Molenbeek to discuss ways of preventing radicalisation.
The article mirrors opinions shared by the author of an article titled "Molenbeek broke my heart":
The debate is paralyzed by a paternalistic discourse in which radical Muslim youths are seen, above all, as victims of social and economic exclusion. They in turn internalize this frame of reference, of course, because it arouses sympathy and frees them from taking responsibility for their actions. The former Socialist mayor Philippe Moureax, who governed Molenbeek from 1992 to 2012 as his private fiefdom, perfected this culture of denial and is to a large extent responsible for the current state of affairs in the neighborhood.
Two journalists had already reported on the presence of radical Islamists in Molenbeek and the danger they posed — and both became victims of character assassination. In 2006, Hind Fraihi, a young Flemish woman of Morrocan descent published “Undercover in Little Morocco: Behind the Closed Doors of Radical Islam.” Her community called her a traitor; progressive media called her a “spy” and a “girl with personal problems.”[...]
I always thought as myself as a defender of human rights and human dignity, beyond left- or right-wing categories. Now suddenly I was painted as a right-wing firebrand. For some people I became an “untouchable” and I even lost a few friends, who refused to talk to me.
While on the topic of immigration, the discussion has much in common with articles that state that immigrants are generally less criminal than native-born residents. Studies have been done showing that this is true whether or not the immigrants are in the country legally or not.
However it is interesting that the pro-immigration studies are actually quite thorough in their categorization of subjects - as can be expected in science, and as such many of them are comparing migrant populations to native populations of a similar demographic. That is, a population of poor immigrants with marginal levels of education are by some basic metric "better" than a native-born population in a similar predicament. Finding this fascinating is the definition of being easily impressed.
Immigration is fortunately in most instances a self-selective process. Immigration also is not a matter of equivalent demographics - the makeup of an immigrant population will rarely neatly line up with the pre-existing social fabric. These two factors make an critical analysis of what immigration means in the context of a forced migration due to conflict or economic desperation incredibly difficult.
If there was an endless supply of highly skilled south and east asian immigrants to hand out work visas to, immigration would be an undeniable and everlasting good. Inclusion in the labour market would not be a question, especially when participating in sectors of the economy without a strictly limited demand for employment. Questions related to "culture fit" would not need to be asked, as the employers oftentimes begging for their admission have already asked that question and determined that the would-be migrant is sufficiently ready to worship the almighty dollar at the nearest water cooler.
While it's simple to see the upside of immigration, it's also not difficult to see that immigration has some meaningful limits. Especially in light of what appears to be happening when children from Belgium decide to shoot up Paris or travel to Syria to join the caliphate.
The timeline is as follows:
- Western nations pursue capitalist growth and progressive multiculturalism with laissez-faire approach to immigration
- Motivated first generation immigrants perform really well in a number of measures
- Despite well-meaning efforts, the children of first generation migrants join the Tumblr version of Islam while all facets of western society (both friend and foe) tell them they're different
- Tumblr Islam decides to take over a country
- Children of western nations travel to fight against western ideals
- Innocent citizens of that country, having a much more positive view of burger joints in a secular suburbia, flee to the west
It's a vicious cycle. In every step, western nations face "progressive" criticism even as society at large becomes more adaptive to a more conservative mindset. Progressive pundits that deride polarization and inequality fuel it with a half-baked moralistic defense of immigration while pitching non-intervention in conflicts fought by westerners and propagandized on Twitter.
Accepting starving refugees is a requirement for those that wish to have a clear conscience. But in this iteration, situation is itself in part created by a cultural acceptance of all kinds of totalitarian patriarchal religious superstition and political mythology - as long as it is imported.
For if there is indeed a Belgian apartheid, it has been created by a failure to challenge the assumptions and traditions of newcomers. Nobody is given the tools to flourish in western society, as what good would they be if immigration is to fundamentally change the western world for the better? Immigration is not viewed as an opportunity for the immigrants to learn. Instead it is an opportunity for the native-born population to become more interesting and have more depth - like having a world map tacked to the wall in one's foyer.
The west's progressive white knights think immigration is a virtuous force for good, when the reality is migrants are treated like exotic fish. They are put in a shallow tank in the far side of the room, and assumed to be good as if it were living in a miniature aquatic carbonite. Nothing happens until visitors arrive, at which time the fancy lights shine on the little happy Betta and an illuminating conversation of its diet arises. Its temperament is briefly discussed in a comfortable, non-judgmental way.
One day, things will be better. There will be a bigger, saltwater tank. The fish will have so much more room to swim.
One day, they'll respect their benevolent progressive landlords more.