The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo has put the Belgian singer Stromae with his hit “Papaoutai” (Papa, where are you?) on its front cover, in colors of the Belgian flag, together with an array of ‘flying’ body parts labeled: “Here I am.” It’s the weekly’s way of marking the Brussels attacks in which 35 were killed.
The slaughter in Brussels isn’t a surprise. It didn’t sneak up on anyone, undetected, and erupt suddenly, without warning. The perverse ideology that produced the mass killings has been festering there for years for all to see, feeding on itself, gathering its strength, and striking out periodically at innocent civilians. The warning bells have been clanging about Belgium, but Belgian politicians, both Flemish and French, have been too busy bickering with each other to take notice, until now. It’s the funeral bells that may have got their attention.
Molenbeek, a working class district, on the northwest edge of Brussels, home to about 95,000 people, has been a rat’s nest of Islamic radicalism for at least two decades. It is one of Europe’s “no go” zones, a Muslim enclave, unassimilated, where the government’s writ is worthless unless enforced with massive force. On a per capita basis, Molenbeek contributes more jihadi foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq by far than any other place in Europe. By July 2015, about 120 of them had returned from the fight, many to Molenbeek. What did Belgium’s politicians think these battle-hardened fighters were up to?