New Delhi – Terrorist attacks on Europe are increasingly becoming frequent over the past few years. Targets have been Madrid, London, Paris (twice) and now Brussels. Every time it occurs, we read and hear the standard explanations, mostly conflicting, of inadequate security measures on one hand and the lack of social cohesion on the other. However, these explanations are not sufficient to understand the menacing phenomenon.
For attacks on Brussels last week, we are told that Policing is pathetic in the Belgian capital that houses about 2500 international agencies and organisations, including the headquarters of NATO, World Custom Union, Benelux (the regional organisation of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg), European Commission and the Council of European Union. Brussels is a city of 11.2 million people. It has sent more foreign fighters (thanks to its large Muslim population – mostly immigrants from North Africa and lately West Asia) per capita to the Islamic State or ISIS than any other country in Europe. But surprisingly Belgium has small security apparatus; its federal police have a total force of about 12,000. In fact, the Belgian Secret Service (the Staatsveiligheid) has been unable even to fill its desired quota of intelligence officers—a mere 750! And then, there is the country’s penal code that prohibits raids between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. “unless a crime is in progress”.
We are also told how these security bottlenecks have something to do with the fragile political nature of Belgium as a country. Such is the fragility that that in 2010-2011 Belgium set a world record for a democracy not having an elected government for 589 days just because opposing factions were unable to form a governing coalition. This multilingual nation — in which citizens speak French, Dutch and German — is plagued by societal rifts and rivalry between jurisdictions. Belgium is a federation of three “disparate” regions having secessionist sentiments —Brussels, Flanders, and Wallonia. The country has three separate parliaments and two distinct intelligence services—the civilian State Security Service and the military General Intelligence and Security Service—which meddle in each other’s affairs as little as possible. The federal police force is virtually toothless. Until recently Brussels, for instance, had 19 communes (boroughs), each of which, had its own police force. The number of communes has now come down to six, but the chaos prevails. Brussels has now six police forces, each answering to a different mayor. Such decentralisation does not help policing that needs the sharing, pooling and collating of information.
On the other hand, we are told how Belgium’s terrorism problem goes beyond security issues and includes social divides related not only to linguistic barriers but also to incorporating waves of Muslim immigrants in recent decades. Immigrants and their children maintain that they are ostracized and find it more difficult to get jobs. Then there is the Saudi factor – Saudi money to promote radicalism among the Muslim youth in Belgium; many of them become foot soldiers of ISIS or the Taliban. And it so happened that two Muslim brothers turned out to be the suicide bombers last week.
I term this sociological argument to be “secular argument in global media, an argument that is very much sympathetic (or should I say empathetic?) to the terrorists if they happen to be Muslims (and unfortunately most of the major incidents of terrorism all over the world have been triggered by the Muslims). I do not know whether one could describe these “secularists” to be suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome” vis-à-vis the Islamic terrorists, but I can summarise that their sympathy or empathy is based mainly on three points:
One, there must be a distinction between the terrorists as individuals and their religion, Islam, which, all told, is a great religion of peace. Two, these terrorists are only reacting to the grave injustice to the Muslims perpetrated by the Western countries and their allies (and friends like India) in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Three, these terrorists also happen to be the “victims” of so-called democracy and capitalism in non-Muslim-majority countries in the sense that they are badly nurtured and remain deprived and depraved. Naturally they have a grudge against this society for having “rejected them”. This, in turn, leads them to the religion as depicted by the Islamic fundamentalists, which they think to provide an emphatic rejoinder to the identity offered by Western society. The fundamentalists allure the likes of them by employing starkly religious language and invoking religious texts that promise “other-worldly” rewards as compensation for “this-worldly” sacrifice, including “the guarantee of eternal Paradise, and most famously, the lascivious offering of seventy-two heavenly virgins.”