The March 22 jihadist attacks in Brussels were predictable. What is surprising is that they did not take place sooner. What is also surprising is that more people were not killed. It seems that the authors of the attacks had larger projects in mind; they wanted to attack a nuclear power plant. Others may succeed in doing just that.
In the last two decades, Belgium has become the hub of jihad in Europe. The district of Molenbeek in Brussels is now a foreign Islamist territory in the heart of Belgium. It is not, however, a lawless zone: sharia law has effectively replaced Belgian law. Almost all the women wear veils or burqas; those who do not take risks. Drug trafficking and radical mosques are everyplace. The police stay outside and intervene only in cases of extreme emergency, using military-like commando operations. Other areas of Belgium, such as Shaerbeek and Anderlecht have the same status as Molenbeek.
The Belgian authorities have allowed the situation to deteriorate. The situation in the country now is virtually equivalent to a surrender.
They seemed to hope that willful blindness and accepting the unacceptable would permit the country to be spared. It did not.
The attack on Belgium's Jewish Museum on May 24, 2014 should have served as a warning. It did not. That "only" Jews were the target led the Belgian government to underestimate the threat. The jihadi who wanted to kill passengers on train from Amsterdam to Paris, on August 21, 2015, prepared his attack in Brussels. That three American heroes neutralized him before he could start shooting again led the Belgian government to think the danger was not large.
The jihadis who struck Paris on November 13, 2015 had also organized their attacks from Molenbeek, but the blood was not spilled in Belgium. Belgian authorities perhaps assumed that Belgium would be spared. They spoke of "imminent danger" for a day or so, but never increased security.
One of the organizers of the Paris bombings, Salah Abdeslam, Europe's most wanted terrorist criminal, was able to live peacefully in Molenbeek for four months until police decided to arrest him. Belgian police knew exactly where he was, but did nothing until French authorities asked them to. After his arrest, he was treated as a petty criminal, not a jihadi terrorist. Police did not ask him anything concerning the jihadist networks with which he worked. Because he was hurt during police operations, officers who interrogated him were ordered to be gentle. The people who agreed to hide him for so long were not considered suspects and were not indicted.
The Brussels jihadist attacks took place two days later.
Despite the worst attacks on Belgium soil since World War II, Belgian authorities do not seem ready to change their behavior.
After the attacks, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel denounced "violent and cowardly acts" and stressed his "determination," without saying what he intended to do. He did not speak of the necessity of changing the Belgian laws to make them more effective. He did not mention any enemy. He never used words such as "jihad" or "radical Islam."
He behaved and talked as most of his European counterparts did. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls used more courageous words and said many times he is fighting "radical jihad" and "Islamism." The French parliament passed laws allowing what is still impossible in Belgium: police searches at night. But France stands alone, and effectively the situation in France is no better than in Belgium. Islamist enclaves exists in many suburbs. Whole cities are controlled by thugs and radical imams: cities such as Roubaix, Trappes, Aubervilliers and Sevran in the northeast of Paris.
Islamist enclaves also exist in other European countries: Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden.
European leaders have been making choices. After World War II, they decided Europe would be a region of the world where war would be banished and all problems solved through diplomacy and appeasement. They gradually abandoned financing defense and security activities. Instead, they built welfare states. They thought that taking care of people from cradle to grave would suppress anger and conflicts. They denied the existence of totalitarian dangers and the necessity of showing strength. To this day, their statements indicate that European leaders think both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire fell thanks to the benevolence of Mikhail Gorbachev, not thanks to the determination of Ronald Reagan. To this day, they seem to think that Islam is essentially a religion of peace and that the jihadis belong to a tiny, marginal sect.
Decades ago, Europe's leaders adopted a general policy of "openness" to the Islamic world in general, and the Arab world in particular. They decided to welcome migrants from the Muslim world by hundreds of thousands but without asking them to integrate. They made cultural relativism and multiculturalism their guiding principles. They acted as if Islam could mingle in the Western world harmoniously and without difficulty. Europe's leaders disseminated the idea that the West was guilty of oppressing Muslims and had to pay for its sins. They therefore sowed the seeds of anti-Western resentment among Muslims in Europe.
When in the Muslim world jihadis started to kill, Europe's leaders wanted to believe that the attacks would take place in the Muslim world only. They thought that by not interfering with what European jihadis were planning, they would not risk jihadi attacks on European soil.
When Jews were attacked, Europe's leaders decided that the problem was not jihad, but Israel. They stressed the need not to "export Middle East conflict in Europe." Hoping to please followers of radical Islam and show them Europe could understand their "grievances," they placed increasing pressure on Israel. They also increased their financial and political support for the "Palestinian cause."
When Europeans were attacked, they did not understand why. They had done their best to please the Muslims. They had not even harassed the jihadists. They still do not know how to react.
Many of them now say privately what they will never say in public: it is probably too late.
There are six to eight million Muslims in France, and more than thirty million in Western Europe. Hundreds of jihadis are trained and ready to act -- anytime, anyplace. European intelligence services know that they want to make "dirty bombs." Surveys show that tens of thousands of Muslims living in Europe approve of jihadi attacks in Europe. Millions of Muslims living in Europe keep silent, behave as if they see nothing and hear nothing, and protest only when they think they have to defend Islam.
European political leaders know that every decision they make may provoke reactions among the Muslims living in Europe. Muslim votes matter. Riots occur easily. In France, Belgium, other European countries, Islamists are present in the army and police forces. In the meantime, Islamist organizations recruit and Islamic lobbies gain ground.
European governments are now hostages. The European media are also hostages.
In most European countries, "Islamophobia" is considered a crime -- and any criticism of Islam may be considered "Islamophobic." People trying to warn Europe, such as the Dutch MP Geert Wilders, despite an apparently biased judge and forged documents against him, are now on trial.
Books on radical Islam are still published but surrounded by silence. Books praising the glory of Islam are in every bookstore. When Bat Ye'or's Eurabia was published in Europe, she was denounced and received hundreds of death threats. Bruce Bawer's While Europe Slept, published in the U.S., was not even available in Europe. Ten years later, the situation is worse.
Political movements expressing anger and concerns are rising. All are demonized by political power holders and the media. They have almost no chance of gaining more influence.
Populations are gnawed by fear, frustration and impotence. They are looking for answers, but cannot find them. A few hours after the attacks on Brussels, a man on Belgian television said that Europe is on the verge of suicide.
Europe looks like a dying civilization. European governments created a situation that can only lead to more attacks, more massacres, and maybe unspeakable disasters. Europe's leaders continue to react with speeches and a few police operations.
If some European governments decided to restore their abolished borders, it could take years, and most European leaders would probably disagree with such a policy. Meanwhile, millions more "migrants" will enter Europe, and among them many more jihadis. In spite of the mayhem created in Germany by "migrants" who arrived in 2015, Angela Merkel said she would not change her decisions. No Western European government dared to disagree with her, except Viktor Orbán in Hungary, a lone voice of dissent.
In Brussels, as in Paris earlier, people gathered where the attacks took place. They brought candles and flowers to mourn the victims. They sang sentimental songs. They cried. There were no shouts of revolt against jihad. Members of the Belgian government called on the Belgian people to avoid reactions of violence, and declared that Muslims are the main victims of terrorism.
In Europe's near future, more people will bring candles, flowers and songs to mourn victims. Another two or three jihadists will be arrested. But nothing will be done.
Dr. Guy Millière, a professor at the University of Paris, is the author of 27 books on France and Europe.