The Logic of Belgian Political Class Is a Compromise with Radical Islamists

The "culture of compromise" which is obvious in the way Belgian politicians are managing the “Islamist” issue reflects a deeper fact: the Belgian political class is no longer aware of what would constitute a "country."

It seems that if the Belgian government was aware of a possible terrorist attack following the arrest of Salah Abdeslam in Brussels, it grossly underestimated the actual risk. The Belgian government policy looks like a curious mix between overestimating the threat (when it “closed down” Brussels for several days in November after the terrorist attack in Paris) and underestimating it.

Quite clearly, with the arrest of one of the Paris commando in Brussels, it would have been prepared to such an attack. The fact that the EU and NATO main administration is located in Brussels, required a serious assessment of the threat.

But, actually the Belgian government seems to have seriously underestimated the threat. The fact that the present government is still the result of complicated horse-trading between various political parties, between “French-speaking” and “Flemmish-speaking” groups, seems to have played a deleterious effect in the face of the terrorist threat. The weakness of the Belgian government, resulting in this oscillation between underestimation and overestimation of the terrorist threat, refers to the weakness of the Belgian state. There are now many people who are saying that Belgium is no more a country but a kind of a loose federation.

A crackdown on Islam “hate-preachers” would be a logical thing. But I don’t think it will really happen. The logic of Belgian political class is a compromise with radical Islamists. Even when these redical activists are a tiny minority, the government does not seem ready to face them politically. The Belgian elite prefers to make compromises.

In any case these Islamists groups absolutely do not represent a significant part of the Muslim population. Actually they are quite isolated. But, the "culture of compromise" which is obvious in the way Belgian politicians are managing the “Islamist” issue reflects a deeper fact: the Belgian political class is no longer aware of what would constitute a "country." It prefers to get lost in the delights of the European Union rather than confront difficult questions about what constitutes a real Belgian nation.

Therefore it is an interesting perspective to compare France and Belgium. The fact that France is still a Nation, even if this Nation is weakened, largely explains the difference in reactions to bomb attacks. We should not underestimate the historical depth of these reactions in France and Belgium.

These terrorist attacks are in no way related to the refugee issue. It is clear that terrorist cells were and are largely the product of a radicalization that is unique to French and Belgian societies. In a sense this radicalization tells us more about France and Belgium than on Islam.

What is essential is the loss of bearings, particularly of benchmarks of what constitutes a nation. From this point of view, the radicalization teaches us more about the process of disintegration of states engendered by the mechanisms of the European Union. The fact that some of the terrorists were able to come back to Europe from the Middle East and Syria taking advantage of the disorder created by refugee movements does not mean a causal link between the refugee issue and the issue of terrorism. Nevertheless, the question of acceptance of refugees is now determined by the reaction of various countries regarding these terrorist attacks. It is obvious that these attacks provoke a backlash on the refugee issue.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.