Belgian authorities have banned a far-right European youth group from mounting an anti-Islam demonstration Saturday in Brussels’ predominantly Muslim neighborhood ofMolenbeek, but community leaders fear police are unprepared to keep them out.
The youth group Generation Identitaire announced its “Expel the Islamists!” demonstration on its website, calling Moleenbeek “a real Islamist breeding ground.”
Generation Identitaire urged “European youth” to gather in Molenbeek’s town square Saturday 3 p.m. “with a clear and simple message: ‘Islamists out of Europe!'”
Last week. hundreds of black-clad youth shouting Nazi slogans disrupted a memorial at Brussels’ Borse Square that had been called on behalf of 32 people killed in the March 22 terrorist attacks at Brussels airport and subway system.
The protesters, who were driven out by police using water cannon, helped prompt authorities to ban Saturday’s demonstration in Molenbeek.There was no sign the group would heed the ban.
Molenbeek was thrust into the headlines in November following the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people. Several of the terrorists had ties to the Brussels community, including Salah Abdeslam, who was captured four months later in Molenbeek, where he grew up.
Abdeslam’s brother, Ibrahim, who blew himself up in the Paris attacks, also grew up in Molenbeek, as did at least two of the terrorists in the Brussels attacks.
Abdeslam even returned to Molenbeek the night of the Paris attacks after he scrapped his suicide vest and fled the city.
In the neighborhood itself, community leaders have expressed fear that its predominantly Muslim young people will fight back if the protesters attempt to mount their demonstration despite the ban.
“They don’t trust the police and they aren’t going to take it,” said Fouad Ben Abdelkader, a teacher in the neighborhood, the Associated Press reported. On Thursday he joined a meeting of a couple dozen community leaders and mentors to neighborhood youths who feel adrift in mainstream Belgian society.
At the meeting, Molenbeek’s youth organizers planned for the worst, expressing doubt that police are prepared for a confrontation and worried that the authorities are unwilling to listen to their concerns.
“There are some messages that are clearly calling for violence against Muslims,” said Sarah Turine, a Molenbeek councilwoman who called the meeting in hopes of heading off problems. “And there have been repercussions on social networks among young people, families, saying we have to get mobilized to defend our little brothers, our sisters, our mothers. Seeing that last weekend the police didn’t do their job and didn’t succeed in avoiding clashes, that creates mistrust.”
Brussels is still reeling from last week’s attacks. The Brussels airport, where two bombs caused major structural damage in addition to the killings, was set to reopen at only 20 per cent capacity Friday, but even that was postponed because of a strike by airport policy over security concerns, the BBC reports.