People like Peter Vandermeersch, the Belgian editor-in-chief of Dutch newspaper NRC- Handelsblad, and Belgian writer David Van Reybrouck, both accomplished intellectuals,
argued that Belgium must have done something terrible to deserve this. Their line of reasoning: The terrorists’ fury must be a reaction to their inhumane treatment at the hands of the West.
So, we blame ourselves in order to remain blameless. Safer to blame our own societies and socioeconomic conditions than to blame the religious and cultural concepts with which terrorists poison their own minds.
According to reports, the unemployment figure in Brussels’ infamous Molenbeek neighborhood — now referred to as the jihadi hothouse of Europe — is 30 percent. This is a relatively high figure in Western Europe, but not unusual in southern European countries or the Arab world. There is poverty in Molenbeek, but that poverty is relative. There is no starvation, no homelessness, no lack of medical infrastructure, no lack of schools.
Compared to average living standards in Morocco or Egypt, the average living standard in Molenbeek is comfortably middle-class. Like in any other Western European country, many Belgian institutions and organizations offer support when families need housing, food, education, and health care. Opportunities for success, and to study and become a respected member in society, are countless compared to those that exist in many immigrants’ countries of origin. Still, there is deep resentment among the younger generations of immigrant Moroccan families.
Immigration into the Netherlands from Morocco and Turkey is an expensive phenomenon for the taxpayer: In the modern welfare state immigrants are more dependent on the welfare state than the average citizen. Because of a lack of higher education and the lack of non-skilled jobs, immigrants absorb a higher part of unemployment and social security payments than the average citizen. As a group, they receive more money than they pay in taxes. They also show up much higher in crime statistics than their numbers would justify. There are many success stories, but there are also disappointing trends. Like radicalization. And the situation in Belgium is even worse.
There is no question that unemployment is much higher among Muslim immigrant communities than among the general public. There are two possible explanations.
“Life in Belgium is exceptionally good and safe for migrants — if they are willing to integrate into their new cultural environment.
The notion that Moroccan-Belgians suffer from widespread exclusion, discrimination, and suppression is ridiculous — and yet completely acceptable among the politically-correct
crowd. Life in Belgium is exceptionally good and safe for migrants — if they are willing to integrate into their new cultural environment, if they are willing to act as individuals, study with passion and openness, and accept the secular system of the West.
There is no difference at all in socioeconomic status between youngsters from a low-
education, blue-collar Belgian background and youngsters from a Muslim migrant background. Both have to struggle, both have to overcome weak socioeconomic family situations. In Spain, youth unemployment has reached 50 percent and the welfare state is less developed than in Belgium, yet Spanish citizens aren’t blowing themselves up in metro stations.
country” status. The denial of equal rights to women, the lack of separation of state and church, bad education, excessive religiosity, patriarchal machismo — these are all on display in areas with a high percentage of migrants, including Molenbeek.
“Almost 60 percent of Europe’s Muslims reject homosexuals as friends and 45 percent think that Jews cannot be trusted. More than
half believe that the West is out to destroy Islam.
In December 2013, Professor Ruud Koopmans of the Berlin Social Science Center published a study on “Fundamentalism and out-group hostility,” in which he compared hostility among Muslim immigrants with hostility among Christian natives in Western Europe. He writes: “Almost 60 percent agree that Muslims should return to the roots of Islam, 75 percent think there is only one interpretation of the Quran possible to which every Muslim should stick and 65 percent say that religious rules are more important to them than the laws of the country in which they live.” In regards to Christian citizens he concludes: “Less than 4 percent can be characterized as consistent fundamentalists.”
On hatred of Jews and homosexuals among Europe’s Muslim population, Koopmans finds: “Almost 60 percent reject homosexuals as friends and 45 percent think that Jews cannot be trusted. While about one in five natives can be considered as Islamophobic, the level of phobia against the West among Muslims — for which oddly enough there is no word; one might call it ‘Occidentophobia’ — is much higher still, with 54 percent believing that the West is out to destroy Islam.” Recorded rates of Christian hate toward Muslims hover around 10 percent.
“Occidentophobia” is an interesting term. It expresses a refusal to accept the essential concepts of life in the West. Young men like the perpetrators of the Brussels attacks have refused to embrace the social codes of Belgian life. They were raised on the idea that their religious ethics
trump the ethics of the infidels (close to non-existent, in their eyes, in any case). Their second-rate socioeconomic status was therefore a humiliating affront, an indignity to be destroyed.
Muslim integration into Europe societies is successful when Muslims are willing to give up the mental confinement of their home countries — countries, let’s not forget, which they left in search of a better life. For as long as they refuse to adapt to a European state of mind, they will perpetuate resentment and a culture of violence.
What did “we” do to “them”? We opened up our cities, our houses, our wallets. And in our secular temples of progress — our metro stations and airports and theaters — their sons are killing themselves, and taking our sons and daughters with them. There is nothing for which we need to apologize. “Occidentophobia” originated in the Muslim community. We need to demand they abandon it.
Leon de Winter is a Dutch novelist and political commentator.