Even be­fore bomb at­tack on March 22, it w Euro­pean Union also be­come a cap­i­tal Euro­pean ter­ror­ism

The hap­haz­ardly gov­erned city failed to stem a rad­i­cal pres­ence in its slums “Peo­ple don’t poke their noses into other peo­ple’s busi­ness”

Bloomberg Businessweek (Europe) - - GLOBAL ECONOMICS -

The ac­cused ring­leaders of last Novem­ber’s Paris ter­ror at­tacks came from Brus­sels; so did the weapons used in an as­sault on a kosher su­per­mar­ket in Paris last year. A Brus­sels res­i­dent killed four peo­ple at the city’s Jewish Mu­seum in 2014; last Au­gust, a heav­ily armed man boarded a Paris-bound train in Brus­sels and tried to at­tack pas­sen­gers be­fore be­ing over­pow­ered.

How did ji­hadism take root in a city that’s one of Europe’s safest and wealth­i­est—not to men­tion the head­quar­ters of NATO and other se­cu­rity-fo­cused in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions?

There are two sides to Brus­sels. One is com­fort­ably middle class, with Euro­crat salaries push­ing gross do­mes­tic prod­uct per capita to more than €60,000 ($67,000). Brus­sels’ bour­geoisie en­joys fine cui­sine, good schools, safe neigh­bor­hoods, leafy parks—for much less than they’d pay in Lon­don or Paris. The city is also “live-and-let-live, peo­ple don’t poke their noses into other peo­ple’s busi­ness,” says Peter Rus­sell, a na­tive Scot who’s lived hap­pily in Brus­sels for nine years, run­ning his own pub­lic-re­la­tions firm.

The other Brus­sels holds a quar­ter of its res­i­dents, who live in poverty in neigh­bor­hoods such as Schaer­beek and Molen­beek, an old in­dus­trial area near the city cen­ter that is the home of the sus­pected Paris at­tack ring­leaders. Al­most 40 per­cent of Molen­beek’s res­i­dents are Mus­lim, the chil­dren and grand­chil­dren of North Africans and Turks who came in the 1950s and ’60s to work in Bel­gian fac­to­ries. Bel­gium is now a post-in­dus­trial state, and un­em­ploy­ment in Molen­beek is near 30 per­cent, more than twice the rate in more pros­per­ous parts of Brus­sels. So­cial in­equal­ity is “no ex­cuse” for ter­ror­ism, says Dirk Jacobs, a so­ci­ol­o­gist at the Free Univer­sity of Brus­sels who stud­ies im­mi­grants. “But it’s cre­ated a fer­tile ground.”

Brus­sels isn’t the only city where ji­hadists have been re­cruited. And as last year’s Paris at­tacks high­lighted, gov­ern­ments across Europe failed to share in­tel­li­gence that might have thwarted the as­saults. “Europe doesn’t have any­thing like the Pa­triot Act, which Amer­i­cans have used to im­prove in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing,” says Sim Tack, di­rec­tor for in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion man­age­ment at Strat­for, a con­sul­tant on geopol­i­tics in Austin. “In Europe, the con­cept of civil lib­er­ties is much more pro­tected.”

The prob­lem in Brus­sels won’t be easy to fix. It’s not even clear who could fix it, given the city’s hap­haz­ard

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