Roger Cohen calls it “The Islamic State of Molenbeek.” The Brussels borough has become a self-contained outpost of the Islamic State, a breeding ground for terrorists, a place that does not belong to Belgium or Europe.
Cohen reminds us that the inhabitants of this No-Go area are not all recent refugees. Many are the children of immigrants whose families have been here for generations.
The large-scale immigration from Turkey and North Africa that began a half-century ago at a time of economic boom has — at a time of economic stagnation — led to near-ghettos in or around many European cities where the jobless descendants of those migrants are sometimes radicalized by Wahhabi clerics. As the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, warned recently, an extremist minority is “winning the ideological and cultural battle” within French Islam.
Cohen is wrong to think that the battle is within Islam. The battle is between Islam and the West. And it is not going to be solved by bringing more unassimilable Muslim refugees into Europe. Cohen himself has favored this approach. It’s time for him to rethink it.
For now he believes that Belgium and Europe can solve the problem by shutting down radical clerics and by integrating young Muslims into Europe. But, young Muslim men are incapable of doing the jobs that are available.
What matters is not so much what these young men are being taught by Islamist clerics, but what they are not being taught: the skills that would allow them to have good jobs in a modern economy. Sadly, this has been a problem within Islam for centuries now. It will not be solved overnight.
Given the education they receive these young men will not be able to do anything more than the most menial jobs. But, menial jobs are demeaning, and they must think it better to gain status by becoming terrorists and culture warriors than to sweep the streets.
Cohen believes that it’s a war about ideas and that the authorities in places like Belgium should stop coddling Islamist clerics. And they should surely impose law and order, by whatever means are necessary. One remarks that when one Ted Cruz suggested targeting Muslim neighborhoods and mosques he was roundly accused of being a bigot. Why would anyone imagine that the best place to root out Islamist terrorists would be mosques?
In Cohen’s words:
After the carnage in Paris and Brussels, the laissez-faire approach that had allowed those clerics to proselytize, private Muslim schools to multiply in France, prisons to serve as incubators of jihadism, youths to drift to ISIS land in Syria and back, and districts like Molenbeek or Schaerbeek to drift into a void of negligence, has to cease. Improved intelligence is not enough. There is an ideological battle going on; it has to be waged on that level, where it has been lost up to now. The moderate Muslim communities of Europe need to do much more.
There is a lot more to this than the war of ideas. And, putting the onus on the so-called moderate Muslims is empty rhetoric. It reminds me of all the talk about the moderate Iranian clerics who are supposed to be our friends.
If you think that the problem lies within Islam, you are missing the point. If we want young Muslims to join the West, we need to believe in the values that have made the West great. On that score, the intelligentsia, especially the leftist commentariat, has failed. As Bret Stephens points out, young Islamists do not merely draw lessons from the Quran. They learn about the horrors of the West, and thus become more convinced of the righteousness of their cause, by reading Western intellectuals, people like Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore.
… these jihadists are also sons of the West—educated in the schools of multiculturalism, reared on the works of Noam Chomsky and perhaps Frantz Fanon, consumers of a news diet heavy with reports of perfidy by American or British or Israeli soldiers. If Islamism is their ideological drug of choice, the political orthodoxies of the modern left are their gateway to it.
When they read Chomsky do they see that the West is weak and decadent, guilt-ridden, rotting from within… ready to submit to its new Muslim masters? When they read radical leftists who offer up their steady diet of hatred for America and Israel,do they see any reason to join a losing team?
If Molenbeek is an outpost of the Islamic State in Europe, so too is Israel an outpost of Western civilization in the Middle East. When Western intellectuals attack Israel, aren’t they demeaning and degrading their own civilization? How then can they expect anyone to want to be part of it?
Cohen failed to notice that the West cannot win the war of ideas against Islam if it does not believe in and practice its own values. Why would young Muslims embrace the values and engage in the practices that define Western civilization when they are told, by some of its best minds, that the West is a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic organized criminal conspiracy designed to oppress and exploit people of color, including Muslims? Why would they embrace Western values when that means signing on to the transgender rights movement and protesting laws that prevent men from using women’s restrooms. Why should they join a culture—like Sweden-- that allows its daughters to be raped by Muslim men with impunity?
It isn’t merely that leftist Westerners do not believe in Western civilization. What they take to be exemplary of their culture, whether it is transgender rights, same-sex marriage, hypersensitivity to any and all slights, is not going to appeal to anyone who is not in on the joke.
We might believe that we have reached a state of transcendent virtue and that we occupy the moral high ground. But the young out-of-work jihadis who have nothing to lose believe that we could not possibly have earned our wealth. They believe that their condition is our fault, and that we must pay for that. We stole our success; we exploited and oppressed and colonized the darker skinned people of the world; we do not deserve to hold on to it. We deserve to have it destroyed or deconstructed, as the case may be.
Obviously, the radical left has no real interest in fighting Islamist terrorism. From its own ideological perspective, the Islamist revolution is a righteous reaction to the criminal conspiracy called Western civilization. It’s the latest version of the great Revolution that will overthrow the capitalist order and the Western patriarchy.
That is why idiot academics like Judith Butler can declare that Hamas and Hezbollah are progressive causes. Of course, Butler is a sworn enemy of the criminal regime called the state of Israel. She only differs from the terrorist organizations because she rejects the use of violence.
Pusillanimous to a fault, Butler would be happy to see the state of Israel destroyed by non-violent means, through the actions of the anti-Semitic Boycott Divest Sanction movement that she happily supports.
Radical leftists do not support violence. After all, they want America and the West to disarm, unilaterally. And yet, when they see violence perpetrated in the name of a revolutionary ideology, they silently cheer it. Or else, they explain that the fault for 9/11 must lie with the West or with the Mossad.