Molenbeek Fake News

Molenbeek Fake News
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Brussels district, Molenbeek, was home to three terrorists, including Salah Abdelslam, the leader of Bataclan attacks in Paris in November 2015 (130 people dead) and two brothers – Khalid and Ibrahim el-Bakraoui, suicide terrorists from Brussels (32 people dead). Molenbeek fake news, however, will try hard not to show they real reason behind it.

On top of that, there were tens of jihadis who left for Syria to join the troops of Islamic State. It’s not a bad count for a district where out of 95 thousand residents, more or less 40 thousand are Muslims. One in a hundred young Muslim men there becomes a terrorist.

Why there is so many of them – this question was supposed to be answered in an article “Trip to Jihad. Why 640 Belgians joined ISIS” written by Katarzyna Szyngiera and Miroslaw Wlekły, published in a   Polish newspaper – Gazeta Wyborcza Duzy Format. However, it wasn’t just an ordinary newspaper story but “part of preparations for a theatre play “God in the Home” covering Polish “Islamophobia without Muslims””.

Ms. Szyngiera is a theatre director; together with Mr. Wlekly they wrote the screenplay. They don’t say what the connection between “Polish Islamophobia” and Molenbeek jihadis is,  but it’s only one of the things that remain unexplained. One of 33 things they, as journalists, should have explained but didn’t.

Molenbeek Fake News
Katarzyna Szyngiera


Instead, they found 24 reasons why young people from Molenbeek become jihadis. And the one that seems most obvious is not among these 24.

So, this will be a long text, not only about Jihadi movement but about pseudo-journalism.

Pseudo-journalism or Molenbeek Fake News

„Trip to Jihad” is a very good example of how journalism becomes propaganda, how a story becomes a “propaganda story”. It’s a perfect example of post-journalism, where authors – pretending to be objective and inquisitive – tell us something they already know full well, just because they choose people they interview to speak for them. The statements are published with no critique, they are not being verified just because they seem more valuable if the interviewer doesn’t question them.

This type of „journalism” is quite common in Poland and reminds me of a saying I heard once in Bialoleka prison – where I was once kept as detainee [the author was active in the opposition against the Communist regime]: “nowhere else will you find more innocent people than in prison”. Here, the journalist not only acts as an advocate but as a spokesman for those he or she interviews, fully identifying themselves with their views and trying, thanks to the tools of the trade, to make the reader identify with those views and theories as well.

In a propaganda story, [or such “Molenbeek Fake News”] if the authors ask questions, it’s only to show that people having different views than the authors and the people they interview are ignorant and other journalists, covering the same topic are liars (“so one can buy alcohol here?”, “we’ve read that there are corners here where Muslims stand guard and don’t let any strangers in.”).

The piece written by Szyndera and Wlekly published in „Duzy Format” is a contemporary equivalent to the so-called production text, widely published during Stalin times. Before the texts is even written there already is a thesis, the so-called true thesis, that the authors know and by means of the text they want to show and convince those who doubt.

In this story, the thesis is that radicalism and terrorism among young Muslims is caused by 20 (!) different factors but their religion they quote to justify their cruelties, is not one of them.

Molenbeek Fake News
Mirosław Wlekły


Let’s trace point by point, how this journalist manipulation work and how do journalists should act. The explanations as to “why they become jihadis” presented in the article will be marked with Roman numbers and the moments where there should have been questions asked and lies debunked – marked with Arabic numbers.

Trip of ignorants to Molenbeek

Our reporters went to Molenbeek but they went there unprepared. They didn’t even know that one can buy alcohol there even though there is more than 50 thousand non-Muslims living in Molenbeek. And this is number one error of a journalist – lack of preparation. But maybe it was difficult for them to prepare because they were going there to learn about Polish Islamophobia? Or maybe it wasn’t Polish Islamophobia they wanted to talk about? Indeed.

„We want to find out what is life like in Brussels’ district, Molenbeek, branded Jihad’s breeding ground” – that’s what they say, but if that was their goal, they chose a weird way of finding it out as they don’t speak to any of the ordinary people living there (2), they don’t go to places where they could see and hear something – café, mosque, school, office. They don’ even speak to any of our kinsmen (3) and supposedly there’s plenty of them there (the speakers complain about excessively drinking Polish people).

Instead, they talk with informants – two atheists, Shiite Muslim (these are practically non-existent in Molenbeek), one Spanish who runs a boxing club, a priest from Cameron and one imam. There is no terror expert, no social studies representative who was doing research on Muslim communities.

As one reads the interview with those carefully selected people, it turns out that the authors didn’t really want to find out what it’s like to live in that district. It’s about something much more important – to find out how one becomes a jihadi in Molenbeek. Great, perhaps then, they interviewed some jihadis?

How to not find jihadis in Molenbeek?

What would you do if you wanted to find jihadis in a district they’re coming from? A good idea would be to start with the police station – in Brussels, due to its complicated structure, there are six different types of police force. Obviously, police would not disclose confidential data but surely, they could say how may suspects they have, where do they meet, which mosques they go to etc. Maybe they could even share the names and addresses of those they can disclose. The authors are not even trying to go to  the police (4), if they did, they would probably need to speak to the real jihadis? And those jihadis wouldn’t really be telling them soap stories about poverty, discrimination and problems at home but about Islam, jihad, the duty to renounce Western society and about killing infidels?

The first informant, Bahar Kimyongur, is Turkish. Not only he is not an Islamic radical but on the contrary – he’s an atheist and a member of a far-left Turkish group that is considered to be a terrorist group. What can we expect from a far-left party representative when it comes to describing situation in Muslim neighbourhood? Yes, you guessed it right – according to Bahar Kimoyngur all the problems with Muslim fanatics and terrorists are because of lack of education (I), lack of work (II) and lack of perspectives (III).

The authors do not ask why there is a lack of education, work or perspectives (5) but it’s self-explanatory that Muslims in Europe have it tougher and road to school, even in Brussels is quite rocky.

Bahar Kimyongur does admit that in Belgium (although not in Molenbeek) there are problems: „Nearly 640 Belgians, mainly of Moroccan origin, have already been recruited by Daesh (Islamic State – that name is being avoided in case it gets associated with Islam)”. His figures are bit too high because according to the best Belgian specialist, 570 people left (authors do not check – 6). Supposedly, Belgian government was even supporting those who decided to leave (authors do not check – 7) because a few years ago Islamic State seemed quite innocent, they were simply “telling others to boycott the elections because it as a form of polytheism”.

Our informant has even participated in a demonstration together with Islamic State – in 2013 – „against Gaza bombings”. Such demonstrations were being organised in 2014 not 2013 (8) when Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers and then started shootings targeted at Israel. Israel’s response was air force raids and deploying their army to Gaza. It’s interesting that such a strong supporter of far-left views, Mr Kimoyn was not protesting against extremely religious Hamas, but was supporting it – Hamas was acknowledged as a terrorist organisation in European Union. Do terrorsist of all countries unite?

Although as Mr Kimyongur says „he doesn’t know anyone who joined Daesh”, he knows very well how ISIS is recruiting – by showing movies. But where are these movies shown? Are they screened on the streets, in mosque or the Internet? Most likely in person, to various groups because, according to Kimyongur, different groups were being shown different pictures. Our brave reporters are so concerned about the evil doings of Islamic Sate that they forget to ask (9) where these movies were shown and how come an atheist and Marx philosophy follower knows these movies so well and knows the methods of recruitment (10) if he doesn’t know any Daesh people?

Anyway, these movies were covering „justice and anti-capitalism”. We are lucky that our reporters didn’t get to watch them in Molenbeek – instead going back to Bydgoszcz they might have broken down and also go to Syria to fight because „justice and anti-capitalism” are so ideologically close to them.

Boxing federation is making it difficult for their own fighters

Then Kimyongur takes our reporters to another informant, owner of a gym in Molenbeek, Carlos Perez – of Spanish origin. He not only runs the gym but also „gets young people active and writes pedagogy” and „knows Daesh people”. Yes, Mr Perez confirms „three boxers who used to train here, they joined Daesh”. Of course, Islam had nothing to do with radicalising these, sensitive to injustice in the world, boxers.

One of these boys’ father „is not a radical, on the contrary, he drinks, he likes trendy clothes”. „But it’s not easy here if you’re a Muslim – explains Perez – boxing federation kept making it difficult, for his son, he was not being selected for the fights, he wasn’t selected to go abroad, to take part in championships. After two years of such treatment the boy stopped training” (we will use the “federation was making it difficult for the boxer” as the explanation IV).

The reporters not only failed to check if these boxers have really existed (11) but they didn’t even bother to go and check with the boxing federation why they were making it so difficult for this young talented boxer (12) – it was so difficult for him that he had to go unwind in Syria, slitting people’s throats. Perhaps Belgian boxing federation board is full of idiots who dislike boxers. Anyway, that one who had it so tough went to Syria, he was joined by two others – boys with “millions of problems, economical (V), problems at home (VI), problems at school (VII)” – the reporters don’t really ask what kind of problems exactly (13), they also don’t ask (14) why these boys chose Islamic terrorist organisation to solve their problems and not, let’s say, therapy or evening school or vocational training – maybe if they had asked it would turn out that it actually is somehow connected to Islam…

Gym owner, who also tries to keep the young people active and writes articles about pedagogy, shed some light at the situation in Molenbeek. The problem is not jihadis or Islamic fanatics. “The problem is mass media – only mass media report that it’s dangerous here. You are here and you are OK” – he observes.

The fact that tons of ISIS volunteers come from Molenbeek is simply a result of the fact that „every person is a potential radical”. The youngsters in particular – they want to change the world, they rebel against the old order, they want to be different than their parents and break the rules (VIII). Everyone is a potential radical. It all depends if and how it’s awakened inside us. Here, Islamic radicals are very successful”. And they are successful because there no longer exists „work culture” (IX).

They don’t ask (15) Perez what kind of work culture of Moroccan workers he refers to but he knows that “learning difficulties (VII repeated), problems progressing in sport (X) lack of jobs (XI) have become unbelievable”. The reporters don’t ask (16) about details about these terrible problems, they don’t ask or even think (17) why all the other people, non- Muslims living in Molenbeek, who surely must have the same problems, why don’t they come together and form terrorist groups shooting people at concerts.

While interviewing another informant – a priest from Cameron – our reporters tell us they not only want to write an article. “We’re saying that many Polish people think that Muslims want to rule the world. We decided to write a play”. Well this is a true art (of evasion) to talk to a priest about this taking over the world instead checking holy Muslim books or works of Islamic organisations or even asking the Muslims.

Actually, one of the other people interviewed, representative of a Shiite party, does confirm that Muslims want sharia law to be the dominant law in all of Europe – but the authors don’t pick up on that loud and clear statement at all. Back to the priest.

The priest loves getting to know people of various religions and cooperating with them. He speaks of one Christmas Day he spent together with the Muslims and the end of Ramadan celebrations – he actually offered those to be held in church just in case there was rain. Why none of the 22 mosques in Molenbeek (there are only 4 churches) have ever invited non-Muslims to celebrate the end of Ramadan with them, or to celebrate Christmas Day together – the reporters/ playwriters don’t ask (18).

Although it would seem logical that if a non-Muslim majority feels fear, alienation and hostility towards Muslims then it should be the Muslim representatives not a Catholic priest who would step up, show these non -Muslim people that they want to get to know each other, integrate, be friends?

Wahhabism has nothing to do with Islam

However, it’s only while visiting the fourth informant – and the only Muslim – can the propaganda authors fully show their style. The informant is Imam Jamal Habbachich. He’s also the speaker for a union of six mosques in Molenbeek but we never learn (19) what the views of these mosques are and why the other six didn’t join the union.

Imam says various things to open our – the readers’ – and authors’ eyes and to correct our false image of Islam. He starts off by saying that Belgian Muslim women cover their faces “because of fashion”, not because of the religion. The authors do not ask (20) who was the first to introduce this fashion – was it Chanel? Benetton? Zara?

After this introduction into the world of fashion, imam suddenly starts talking about Wahhabism, a form of Islam that Saudi Arabia is trying to spread across Belgium. Of course, it is undisputable that Saudi Arabia is guilty of the rise of radicalisms in Belgium as well as in the world; recently even media have been talking about it, covering Saudi Arabia king’s visit to Indonesia and Malaysia – countries which used to be relatively tolerant but now, because of Saudi Arabia’s funding, they lean towards more Wahhabi version of Islam. Imam does not say, and authors do not ask (21) what’s the link between the actions of Saudi Arabia and the radicalisation of young Muslims in Molenbeek.

Imam does quite accurately – although selectively – describe the Wahhabi teachings (submission of women, the rule for Muslims to keep away from non-Muslims, the superiority of Islam) at the same time, he tells lies and nonsense, which of course the reporters do not dispute. And so, we learn that Saudi Arabia became present in Belgium because after a shopping mall fire in 1967 king Faisal paid out compensation to the families of over 300 victims. Out of gratitude, Belgian government gifted Saudi Arabia with the land to build the Great Mosque. King Faisal did visit Belgium after the fire and did offer some sum to the victims (surely it was not compensation) however, the decision to give them the land was taken long before that (22). Sadly, it was all about securing cheap oil supply, not about gratitude..

On top of building the mosque, Belgian government have also agreed to create Islamic Culture Centre and a Trust that would run the mosque with no control from the government. The Trust is financing scholarships for future imams who study in Saudi Arabia, it runs courses about Islam, teaches Belgian Muslim kids by spreading Wahhabi literature and praising Saudi Arabia.

Imam also tells us that Wahhabi, Saudi Arabian style teaching in the Great Mosque did pose a problem but it is now “under control” – and that is a total lie. Yes, the director of Trust running the mosque – Khalid Alabri was forced to leave the country in 2012 (under the charges of stirring up and anti-west preaching) but the Trust and the Mosques are still running great. Clearly, the authors do not think to ask (23) what it means that the situation is now “under control” if the imam describes persistent, radicalising actions of Wahhabis.

Imam actually states, quite surprisingly, that Wahhabism is not Islam – he doesn’t really say it directly, he questions particular elements of Wahhabism but that is the general meaning of his statement. So, do the Saudi Arabians teach heresy in Belgium? Yes – you are right, dear readers – the authors do not ask (24).

Another statement we hear from imam – that Islam is not war but peace, is nothing new but he explains that “there are only five verses in Quran talking about jihad and war, and 155 verses about peace”. Now that is a lie, which of course gets undisputed and it’s not even clarified in the printed version of the interview (25). In total, there are few verses talking about peace and tolerance but over 100 verses talking about war.

Another person interviewed by the brave jihadi hunters is a councillor (!) from the fundamentalist Shiite Islam party, and he unexpectedly confirms what was ridiculed at the beginning of the text and treated as Islamophobic nonsense – that yes, indeed sharia law is to be the law in Europe, including Poland, and that Muslims will not adhere to the Belgian law because these lay regulations are not adequate for them.

For example, one of the regulations that Muslims don’t like is the possibility of having sexual intercourse with 12-year-old girls – which is a lie (26) because in Belgium the consent age is 16 and a sexual intercourse with a 12-year-old girls is considered a rape. The councillor also mentions that Islam is quite relaxed when it comes to various customs and that it even allows to have intercourse with a donkey (indoors only) and that there are imams who would marry two men together. Imam couldn’t make up any other, relevant examples (26).

Lost idealists

After that, the authors go to interview vice-director of the social workers in Molenbeek – a French Moroccan but an atheist. The vice director has a theory as to why the young ones in Molenbeek get radicalised. There are two types of motivation: there are the ones who are fascinated by violence (“Rambo”, XII) and idealists (“Rimbaud” XIII) who would like to save the world. Why do they need to save the world in Syria, enlisted in Daesh – he does not explain (27). What he does explain, quite extensively, is that the Bataclan terrorists, who run a coffee shop (with alcohol!) in Molenbeek, belonged to the first, aggressive group. One of the brothers had problems of “emotional nature” (mental illness – XIV). He even tells us more details: the brothers had debts (what debts? – 28) and organised a terrorist attack “for the money” (XV). Whose money, how much and how does he know about these – we will never find out (29).

Apart from money and debts there is also another, alternative explanation for terrorist actions: they carried out the attack to “make up for the miserable life they had here” (XVI). The miserable life, apart from owning coffee shop included: “hashish, women, alcohol, Mercedes cars.” Sure, everyone would be fed up with such miserable life…

But why so many radials stem from Molenbeek? Because in schools there are only Muslim children (XVII). This actually is not true – Molenbeek is only 40% Muslim and even if there were more Muslims why would Muslim only schools “generate mutual hostility”? (30).

Eventually, authors get in touch with someone who does know the jihadis. He’s not a Belgian, not a Muslim, doesn’t even live in Molenbeek. Last expert on radicalisation the authors talk with is a social worker, Chilean for a change, who knows “all the black sheep”. Unfortunately, it turns out that these black sheep “don’t want to talk if you’re not a Muslim” so a Chilean will speak on their behalf. Well, these black sheep are “lost people” (XVIII), and “the neighbourhood is very poor” (XIX). It’s even worse – they’re not only lost but they are even being rejected by Muslim employers (XX) because they are illiterate and many of them don’t speak French. And they are illiterate because there can be up to 36 children in one class – states the Chilean.

Of course, the authors don’t check the information about illiteracy with the education authorities (31) but what actually surprised me was the fact that in a 36 pupil class an 11-year-old boy can be illiterate because for four years the teacher failed to teach him how to read and write. In my grammar school, there were 42 children in one class and four years later all children could read and write. But in Molenbeek, as the social worker explains, parents have no time to take care of their children (XXI).

And here we get to the most bizarre explanation in the entire article: they have no time because they don’t work, because they have lots of children (“five on the average”)! So, they have no time to take care of the kids because they are taking care of the kids. Interesting…the authors have no time to explain this bizarre situation (32).

And what do the „lost ones” do? “Since they cannot consume goods, they consume an idea instead (XXII), they are looking for justification of killing, for example they depersonalise Israeli- Palestinian conflict”. And Islamic State “gives these boys a solid offer: you will get a woman, house, paradise” (XXIII). So, it’s not about justification of killing but about solid rewards for killing? The authors do not investigate (33) and maybe for the better, because otherwise they would miss another explanation given by the social worker: these lost “they don’t know what’s it like to be in a physical relationship. (XXIV). Muslim woman who hangs out with boys is considered a slut” however isn’t there a certain religion that promises them paradise with virgins and eternal sex?

And where’s Islam in this Molenbeek fake news?

Molenbeek is not a rich district that’s for sure – but rich people also become terrorists, just like Bin Laden. It’s more difficult for young Muslims to have sex than it is for non-Muslims. It’s possible that they are too lazy to learn anything at school and that parents don’t pay too much attention. It’s possible that they want to change the world for the better, that they want to fight injustice. These are all elements that can facilitate becoming an extremist and terrorist but for them to become these things, they need an ideology, something that would give them purpose, that will direct them.

This ideology is called Islam, or more like political Islam but it’s not mentioned here. Yes, there are certain Daesh “manipulators” who promise killing, sex and money but in the whole article there is no mention of any kind of ideology or religion. There is no mention of subjects taught to radicals in 22 mosques in Molenbeek and whether the Wahhabism of the Great Mosque influences them at all.

In short, hadn’t we known that Molenbeek terrorists belong to Islamic organisations we would have concluded, based on all these explanations, that they are a part of some ultra-left-wing guerrillas. The authors have completely erased Islam from the life of Molenbeek extremist – even though they themselves are let wing supporters, the only thing they remembered from the Marxist ideology was that “existence defines consciousness” but they seemed to have completely forgotten that “religion is opium for the masses”.

And it’s that second sentence by Carl Marx that would more accurately explain the activities of Islamic extremists although in a bit modified version – fighting Islam is like heroin or cocaine for young European Muslims – it doesn’t make them drowsy like opium, it stimulates and overwhelms them.

Feeling accomplished, the authors have not only written an article, they have also created a play.

I can understand that journalists can sometimes forget to ask a question but I don’t understand why they forgot 33 times. And I can’t understand why an editor and then publishing editor of “Duzy Format” allowed for this text to be published. It’s a text that can be shown at courses for journalists, as an example of how not to write and what is the difference between a journalist and a propaganda writer, a fake news spin-doctor.

Ready recipe to fight jihad

The message of the text, which is not clearly stated, probably out of courtesy for the readers, is that to stop these young, illiterate Muslims from going to Syria and from shooting infidels in Europe, we should give them a great, well paid job in Belgium and let them marry 12-year-old girls.

However I think this solution would be seen as radical, even for the readers of Gazeta Wyborcza.

Grzegorz Lindenberg

The Polish original of the Molenbeek Fake News text was published on Do Molenbeek po niewiedzę

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