Photographs by John Vink of the Brussels borough Molenbeek, stigmatised by the media the world over after evidence was found linking some of its radicalised Muslim residents with the perpetrators of the Paris attacks last November.
Brussels: It was after the November 2015 terror attacks in Paris that Molenbeek suddenly became, in the eyes of the world, a terrorist hotbed.
Molenbeek is one of the 19 boroughs of Brussels. It has a large Muslim population, and high unemployment and petty crime rates.
After the attacks, which were claimed by IS, evidence was found between the perpetrators and radicalised members of the Muslim community from Molenbeek.
After the Paris attacks, hundreds of journalists contributed to creating the image of Molenbeek as a ‘terrorist hotbed.’ The effects were felt by its mostly law-abiding citizens.
One must realise that there are many other Molenbeeks – in Belgium itself, and also in France, and Great Britain. The societal failures leading to the Islamisation of a minority of radicalized citizens who are left to drift away – this scenario is not unique to Molenbeek.
How can a country where self-centred citizens who question the very existence of their own institutions be aware of the needs of other communities, and anticipate the problems they are confronted with now?
Nationalism, exclusion, racism and alienation close doors; they do not open them.
Terrorists are always targeting the weak spots (Belgium certainly is one). They sow the seeds of fear, instil discord, and whip communities up against each other.
But Belgium has been at the crossroads of so many cultures over the centuries, the battleground for so many armies, the breeding ground for so many artistic geniuses. And it has always used its diversity to nurture its creativity.
Multiculturalism is a strength. It has always been so – why would it be any different today?
Molenbeek is an asset, not a threat.
There will be a price to pay, but in the long run, the terrorists will lose.
All the photographs on this page are the copyright of John Vink.