Soon after the investigation into the deadly Paris attacks began, Belgium was thrust into the spotlight as a central part of the story, and Molenbeek, a predominantly low-income and immigrant neighborhood near Brussels, became its focal point.
For Former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, the news of ISIS having strong ties in Belgium did not come as a big surprise. Over the course of four years serving in the country, he witnessed firsthand the difficulty that immigrant communities often face when acclimating to European life and culture.
“Because of the unemployment and the language, they’re still in a strange minority who don’t feel any relationship with Europe,” he told AMERICA.
He says that Molenbeek not only has a high youth unemployment rate—about 35 percent—but many of its residents left Belgium for Syria to fight for Sunnis against the Assad regime and returned with military training. He calls the combination a “time bomb.”