Not only Brussels, but Antwerp too, is a significant terrorism hub in Belgium. By January 2016 there were about 440 Belgian jihadists in Syria and Iraq, and most of them were young Muslims from the suburbs of Brussels and Antwerp.
It was in Antwerp in March 2010 that Fouad Belkacem, a Belgian radical Muslim of Moroccan descent, established "Sharia4Belgium." The group was actively involved in recruiting young Belgian Muslims for the jihad in Syria and Iraq. A Belgian court in Antwerp ruled in February 2015 that "Sharia4Belgium" was a dangerous terrorist organization and that Belkacem and his followers were responsible for sending dozens of young men to Syria. Belkacem, an arrogant and intolerant man, got a 12-years prison sentence.
On June 25, 2016, Belgian Federal Police arrested 38-year-old Saïd M'Nari in the Antwerp suburb of Borgerhout. M’Nari was Belkacem’s right-hand man and left for Syria in May 2013, where he reportedly joined the notorious terror group Al-Nusra, which is linked to Al-Qaeda. The Flemish Arabist Pieter Van Ostaeyen claims, however, that it is quite possible that M’Nari joined the so-called “Islamic State in Syria and Iraq” (ISIS or IS). "We don’t know which group he belonged to,” Van Ostaeyen told a Dutch radio reporter.
What is certain, however, is that M’Nari’s close friend, Hicham Chaib, is now fighting in the ranks of ISIS. Hicham Chaib is from the problematic Antwerp suburb of Borgerhout and became Belkacem’s “bodyguard.” He traveled to Syria in March 2013. The Antwerp court sentenced Chaib in absentia on February 11, 2015 to 15 years in prison.
Shortly after the ISIS-sponsored terrorist attacks in Brussels on March 22, 2016, Chaib, a war criminal, appeared in an ISIS video showing the execution of an ISIS opponent by him. He also announced in Flemish that there would be more terror attacks. “Just like you are bombing us, we will retaliate by killing you. Your women will be made widows and your children will be orphans. ... We are not scared, but you are. You have been humiliated.”
M’Nari was sentenced by the court to twelve years in jail, but he was also in Syria at the time. He managed to slip into Belgium at the end of 2015, possibly via the Netherlands. Although he was on the terrorism watch list, no one in Belgium and Holland noticed that he was no longer in Syria but had somehow returned to Europe. He must have used a forged passport and had probably pretended to be a refugee. He would not have been the first terrorist returnee from Syria to do so.
On September 29, 2014, the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws reported on page 7 (print version only) that nine jihadists from Antwerp and Vilvoorde (another terrorism hotbed, just 24 miles from Antwerp) had died in Syria. They were Noureddine Abouallal, Mohamed Bali, Ahmed Dihaj, Yassine el Karouni, Feisal Yamoun, Saïd el Morabit, Nabil Azaraf (Vilvoorde), Houssien el Ouassaki (Vilvoorde) and Tarik Taketloune (Vilvoorde). Tarik Taketloune was only 20 years old.
On Thursday May 26, 2016, two years after the deadly terrorist attack on the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgian police rounded up a Belgian Moroccan terror cell in Antwerp. The Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen reported that these very young jihadists – still teenagers – planned a terrorist attack on the city’s Central Station. They also wanted to kill Filip Dewinter, the outspoken leader of the Flemish Interest (“Vlaams Belang”) Party, known for his critical views on immigration, multiculturalism and Islam. Dewinter lives in Antwerp.
One of the terror cell members planned to go to Dewinter’s office and shoot him to death. The youngest of the eight arrested terror cell members was 16-years-old Mohamed E.A. who lives in the suburb of Borgerhout and is regarded as the leader of the group. Police found USB sticks in his bedroom showing gruesome videos of beheadings. Another prominent member of the group, 17-year-old Faissal A., who also lives in Borgerhout, tried to travel to Syria in December 2015, but was intercepted in Turkey before he was able to cross the Turkish Syrian border. The Belgian newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws and De Morgen reported that the “teenage terrorists” were secretly communicating with Hicham Chaib, who now lives in Raqqa, the so-called “capital” of ISIS. Belgian anti-terrorism experts warn that ISIS is actively and successfully recruiting young Muslims in Brussels, Vilvoorde and Antwerp.
After terrorist attacks on Jews in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Copenhagen, Toulouse, Paris and Brussels, the large Jewish community of Antwerp fears that ISIS terrorists could also strike in their city. Het Laatste Nieuws reported already in September 2014 that “an ISIS-jihadist from Antwerp” threatened to carry out terrorist attacks in the city. “Even the Jews who live there, are not safe,” he said. He also said that Bart De Wever, the Mayor of Antwerp, “is rightly afraid of terrorist attacks.” “There is a fair chance that these attacks will occur, because every action causes a reaction.”
These fanatical and anti-Semitic Muslim extremists excel at diabolical evil – copycatting is their expertise. Knife attacks, entering restaurants and killing innocents with assault weapons, blowing themselves up as suicide bombers – it is a worldwide phenomenon by now. And these ruthless killers invariably invoke the name of their Islamic deity, as they shout, “Allahu Akhbar.”
I am not a follower of Carl Gustav Jung, the famous Swiss psychiatrist who died in 1961. However, sometimes Jung did make interesting observations on the human mind’s attraction to evil. Back in 1945 – shortly after the Second World War, that is, – Jung wrote the remarkable article “After the Catastrophe.” “The sight of evil kindles evil in the soul,” Jung observed. “Was not Plato aware,” Jung asks, “that the sight of ugliness produces something ugly in the soul?” “When evil breaks at any point into the order of things,” he wrote, something “of the abysmal darkness of our world has broken in on us, poisoning the very air we breathe and befouling the pure water with the stale, nauseating taste of blood.”
This applied to Hitler, the Nazis and their murderous SS. But it also applies to all those Muslims who, inspired and sanctioned by their Islamic texts, believe that they go straight to paradise when they participate in mass killings.