There was an important paragraph in today’s New York Times article about Molenbeek, the immigrant district in Brussels in which several of the Paris attackers were apparently based. The report describes
a Belgian security system ill equipped to deal with a tight knit community like Molenbeek, where a mostly white police force has only tenuous links to a largely immigrant population resentful of being labeled potential terrorists.
Police the world over know that most crimes are solved or thwarted by informants. The “underwear bomber,” who tried to blow up a Northwest Airlines jet on its way to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, had been turned in earlier by his own father, who went straight to the CIA station in Abuja, Nigeria. But security agencies stumbled, and only an alert passenger prevented Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from succeeding.
Preventing future attacks will require cooperation from within communities like Molenbeek. So even just looking at the problem from the law enforcement angle, does it make sense to stigmatize an entire people and an entire religion? The flood of Syrian refugees surely includes people with valuable language skills and first-hand knowledge; is it wise to reject them?
What’s more — and I have no proof of this — but isn’t it at least possible that genuine progress toward human rights in Israel/Palestine and an end to the occupation might make otherwise hesitant people in neighborhoods such as Molenbeek more likely to come forward?