Born and raised in Belgium, I have a bias. I went to the United States in 1996 to lead the NYSE's research and international departments and I became a U.S. citizen in 2009 after Belgium allowed dual citizenship. After the Paris attacks, an insidious attempt to blame Belgium for the attacks struck me as (at best) ill-informed.
Belgium is a small, open and European country
Europe has developed a policy of free circulation inside the borders of several of its countries under an agreement signed in Schengen, a small town of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. 25 percent of the Belgian population is of foreign origin. Rather than maintaining migrants in an illegal status such as the United States, the country, despite a 10 percent unemployment, accommodated this immigration, often coming from poorer countries. Its 11.2 million population continues to grow through immigration since births barely exceed deaths. France is six times bigger.
It plays a substantial role as a founder of the European Union and Brussels is the capital of Europe. Multiculturalism is not even an issue. It cannot however be considered to be responsible for attacks in France by French nationals who happened to live in the country.
Molenbeek is the equivalent of all the clusters of migrant populations and there is nothing more than what exists in London, Paris or Berlin.
Have you heard about Maghreb?
The modern definition of the Maghreb includes the nations of: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Besides Arabic, the most common language in that part of the world is French. It explains why France does have 4.9 million Muslims mostly coming from that part of the world.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, they include writers, artists, lawyers, journalists, university professors, engineers and MDs. A big part of that population, however, is striving with poverty, often with large families. Jobs are few and far between.
Bashing Belgium is a mean habit of French media
The events happened in France and intelligence warnings were ignored in France.
Despite Nobel Prices, finalists in the tennis Davis cup, best soccer team of the FIFA, global companies, spiritual leaders or worldwide artists (Have you heard about Jacques Brel and Stromae's and his song on the drama of cancer?), the bashing of Belgium by some French is difficult to eradicate. Prime Minister Charles Michel and Foreign Minister Didier Reynders had to respond media comments that were trying to paint the country as the instigator of the Paris attacks. "Belgium does not criticize France for some of its suburbs where the police does not dare to go" said the Prime Minister.
How many countries would have gone as far as closing public transportation and schools for five days to capture elusive terrorists? Belgium reacted with warmth and empathy to the dramatic events of Paris and did everything to help their French counterparts to capture the accomplices of the terrorists.
As to the criticism of a broken State, Belgium, despite its religious, linguistic and political differences, works better than the obstruction of the U.S. democracy.
The perennial dysfunctions of a small country with just 11.2 million people would not normally transcend its borders, but they are now blamed for having helped turn Belgium into a hub of terrorist activity that is threatening lives as well as the Continent's troubled enterprise of integration and intelligence sharingwrites the New York Times. Terrorism has myriads of hubs and, yes, there are some in Belgium.
Immigration and Economic growth in Europe
Belgium will welcome 120,000 Syrians, 1 percent of its population. Europe is facing 4 million refugees half of which are in Turkey. The U.S. Congress gave a despicable show of democracy to resist an "invasion" of Syrians representing 0.001 percent of its population. Adding the idea of "Christian" Syrians and the reaction of some governors, one can only wonder how a country that was built on the massive destruction of its native population by migrants can even consider this to be a threat.
The reality is gloomy: Europe, while improving slightly, has no growth and will absorb one million migrants in the next twelve months. It is facing an aging population with ridiculous retirement laws that prohibit is citizens to work beyond 65 years.
Immigration is too serious a problem to joke about it, denigrate a small nation, and forget that today's world makes terrorism a structural issue that all countries must cooperate to limit. Last but not least, let us not forget that ISIS was created by the Iraqi army who were dismantled by the U.S.