Trump was right about Brussels

by Anthony Bradley
Posted on Wednesday, March 23, 2016, at 4:09 pm

The increasing number of terror attacks in Europe, like the one yesterday in Brussels, serves as a dark reminder that we live in an era where international acts of aggression against the West are no longer associated with individual nation-states but distributed around the world via Islamic terrorist cells. Whether you are a Donald Trump fan or not, he predicted something terrible would happen in Brussels.

In late January, The New York Times attempted to cleverly mock the Republican presidential front-runner because he called Brussels a “hellhole” in an interview on Fox Business. Trump told host Maria Bartiromo:

“There is something going on, Maria. Go to Brussels. Go to Paris. Go to different places. There is something going on and it’s not good, where they want Shariah law, where they want this, where they want things that—you know, there has to be some assimilation. There is no assimilation. There is something bad going on.”

It turns out, whether he realized at the time or not, he was right. Something bad was going on, and, according to Belgian authorities, 31 people died and 270 suffered injuries in yesterday’s attacks at the Brussels airport and a city subway station.

When Trump referred to Brussels as a “hellhole” he was not referring to the posh sections of town where the middle class enjoy great dining venues, nor was he talking about the sections where tourists enjoy historic sites. Instead, he referred to the ghettoized sections where immigrants are quarantined and isolated from the rest of Belgian life and culture, and find themselves on the margins of society.

The Molenbeek section of Brussels—the focus of the investigation of the Paris attacks and where the current manhunt for one of the airport and subway station attackers and his accomplices is taking place—is an isolated area of immigrants who live in dilapidated housing and suffer from unemployment rates that hover just above 30 percent. It is estimated that around 50 percent of the residents are Muslim. Assimilation into Belgian life and culture is not expected, and the terrible social conditions allow Molenbeek to remain fertile soil for the recruitment of terrorists. Per capita, Belgium sends more future terrorists from the West to fight in Syria and Iraq than any other nation in Europe.

Sadly, the good intentions of the European openness to immigrants are being tested in new ways since the Paris and Brussels attacks. Islamic terrorism is not simply an American problem; it is now a problem for the whole of Western civilization. While Trump’s suggestion that the United States rethink its involvement in NATO may be extreme, the United States and its allies in Europe must recognize that we all have the same immigration and terrorism challenges now.

Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of religious studies at The King's College in New York and a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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  •  John Cogan's picture
    John Cogan
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    As Christians we should help assimilate immigrants no matter what their religion. It might even lead some to the gospel. But Belgium is not a particularly Christianized country and the secularized majority probably care little about their own or others failing cultures.

  • SKK
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    When someone says so many things, a few are bound to be right.

  • TimJohn
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Right on.  Trump has been right about a lot of things.

  • Hans's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    This is actually a fascinating problem. The majority of the terrorists are not themselves immigrants, but children or grandchildren of immigrants to have yet to assimilate into their host culture. The isolation and ghettoization of the Muslim population, as you say, creates fertile ground for terrorism recruiting, in ways not entirely unlike gang recruitment in many of our poorer inner city neighborhoods. Of course, there are many people who are poor, disenfranchised, and isolated who are not blowing themselves up, but the situation is ripe for pushing the most vulnerable in that direction. That suggests that a significant part of our response to terrorism ought to be in efforts made at greater assimilation. Part of the problem of the hostility shown by the more conservative members of our government is that their policies essentially advocate for the greater ghettoization, which may unintentionally exacerbate the problem.

  • cherievon
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Thank you for continuing to offer balanced, sane and thoughtful insights on so many of our world's intractable problems