As the bad news out of Brussels continues to unfold today, we are reminded of some of the coverage that the city has received in the past. As I listened to the expert analysis of precisely what went so wrong there, the name of on particular segment of the city kept coming up repeatedly. The neighborhood of Molenbeek has long been known as a breeding ground for terrorists and a virtual “no go” sector for the cops, no matter what other European leaders say. CNN terrorism analysts this morning were bemoaning the fact that previous efforts to locate suspects in the neighborhood were met with a “wall of silence” if not overt hostility. In fact, you couldn’t find one “expert” on the air today who wasn’t talking about this problem as if it were just a sad but known fact of life.
Of course, much of the media was singing a different tune only two months ago when The Donald had the audacity to point out some of the problems in Brussels, saying Trump had found “a new city to insult.”
Now Donald J. Trump has upset the already beleaguered people of Belgium, calling its capital, Brussels, “a hellhole.”
Asked by the Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo about the feasibility of his proposal to bar foreign Muslims from entering the United States, Mr. Trump argued that Belgium and France had been blighted by the failure of Muslims in these countries to integrate.
“There is something going on, Maria,” he said. “Go to Brussels. Go to Paris. Go to different places. There is something going on and it’s not good, where they want Shariah law, where they want this, where they want things that — you know, there has to be some assimilation. There is no assimilation. There is something bad going on.”…
For Belgians, already reeling from recent terrorist plots and a chronically dysfunctional government, Mr. Trump’s words were enough to induce a fit of pique worthy, in some cases, of Mr. Trump himself.
Adding even more irony to the story, Trump had referenced the work of Eric Zemmour regarding the situation in Brussels. The French writer had been sending up warnings about Molenbeek for some time and they seem eerily prescient in light of today’s events.
Éric Zemmour, a French writer, recently suggested in an interview that rather than bombing the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa, Syria, France should bomb Molenbeek, the working-class district in Brussels where several of the Paris attackers lived.
Most Belgian officials reacted with quiet defiance. “We don’t react to Mr. Trump’s comments,” the office of Mayor Yvan Mayeur of Brussels said in an email. “Have a nice day.”
I’m sure using the phrase “hell hole” was a bit on the heavy handed side, but looking around the smoking ruins of the Brussels metro today and the neighborhood where the police are looking for suspects, it certainly seems appropriate. I don’t imagine that the Times will be offering any apologies to Trump today, and perhaps none are in order. But if there was any doubt about the fact that there’s something bad going on in Brussels these days, it’s been dispelled in an abrupt, tragic fashion.
The Mayor of Brussels may not react to Mr. Trump’s comments, but his city had best figure out a way to react to what’s going on in Molenbeek, and quickly.