By now it should be relatively unambiguous that the “guilty victims” theory of Islamic terrorism — the notion that jihadi violence only targets citizens whose governments have provoked reciprocity by committing indignities against Muslims — is deserving of the scrap heap. Belgium, after all, did its absolute best to follow the playbook of compassion and appeasement liberal intellectuals have been advocating since 9/11.
Belgium opposed George W. Bush’s war in Iraq. They were the second European country to recognize Palestinian statehood. They’ve welcomed thousands of Muslim immigrants, including over 14,000 Syrian asylum seekers, and their politicians have done their best to make everyone feel welcome.
The country boasts dozens of mosques, most of which enjoy government funding under Belgium’s constitution, which does not recognize a separation between church and state. An additional 50 were accredited last November. When residents of Liège, the country’s third-largest city, planned to march in opposition to the construction of a particularly large one the mayor intervened to stop them.
In 2013 the French government of Belgium’s bi-national federation decreed public school calendars should use secular names to describe breaks organized around Christian holidays — Easter becomes “Spring vacation” and so forth. The traditional Christmas tree in the town square of the capital was replaced with an inoffensive arrangement of light boxes. The Belgian post office released a stamp last year featuring a priest, a rabbi, and an imam —“representing the country’s three main faiths” — holding hands.
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In Brussels, the seat of the federal government, the socialist party holds a majority of seats and half their councillors are Muslim. In 2006, when the mayor stepped down for surgery, his party rigged the succession process to ensure the acting mayor was Muslim. The sub-mayor of the Muslim-rich district of Molenbeek — who married a Muslim woman earlier this year — was reported in the Wall Street Journal to have decreed “Halal meals standard in all schools,” with cops “barred from eating or drinking on the streets during Ramadan.”
Belgian citizens have been successfully convicted for anti-Muslim “hate speech,” including a man who was sentenced to four months in prison for tearing up a Koran, and some politicians have been lobbying to strengthen anti-bigotry laws further, making “Islamophobia” a formal crime. When a factory owner received a death threat for employing a woman in a headscarf, the Belgian king invited both of them to his palace to “send a message out that religious intolerance was unacceptable.”
And yet despite it all, Belgium still wound up, in the words of the Daily Beast, “Europe’s Terror Hotbed.” As the Financial Times noted back in November, “Belgium has now been linked to a major terrorist attack five times in the past 18 months.” (Make that six in 22.) The Atlantic cited a study claiming 516 Belgian nationals had left the country to fight in Iraq or Syria, meaning “Belgium has contributed more fighters per capita to the fight in the Levant than any other European country.”
The world has a problem with radical Islam, a movement whose hate, which is rooted in religion, defies rational attempts to understand.
To the extent he’s contemplated solutions to this problem, Prime Minister Trudeau seems to favour doubling-down on the Belgian model. He’s pulled Canada’s military from active war with the Islamic state (he doesn’t even like that word, war), and his government’s first budget, unveiled the same day as the Brussels attacks, contained what Global News described as a “striking” absence of increased funding for police and security agencies. He’s made opposition to his Conservative predecessor’s talk of burka bans and “barbaric cultural practices” central to his political brand.
The Liberals have welcomed 26,000 Syrian refugees and promise 10,000 more by 2017. Immigration is set to be hiked to what Minister McCallum calls the “highest number … in modern times,” a lot of which will come from the Islamic world and hasten the growth of Canada’s Muslim population, which the Pew people already estimated was set to “nearly triple in the next 20 years” to around 2.7 million by 2030.
Belgium tried to be a similar sort of good example. Its perfectly progressive political class believed a neutralist foreign policy combined with a welcoming immigration regime and a multicultural conception of citizenship would ultimately protect them from an evil they assumed only targeted the comparatively insensitive and ignorant. Instead they bred weakness that has now been savaged by the strong.
Theirs is a case study in failure. Will Ottawa learn from it?
Follow J.J. on twitter: @JJ_McCullough