Bart Somers (BE / Open VLD), vice-President of the ALDE Group in the CoR, introduced the European Institute of Peace study “Voices of Molenbeek” on Tuesday 6 september 2016. This report disputes the image of the Belgian city of Molenbeek as a radicalisation centre.

Drawing on his experience as rapporteur for the “Combatting Radicalisation and Violent Extremism: Prevention mechanisms at local and regional level” opinion for the European Committee of the Regions and from his experience as Mayor of Mechelen from where no youngster has left to go and fight in Syria, Bart Somers spoke of creating a climate of trust for effective dialogue with the local communities, to invest in neighbourhoods as the biggest opportunities for Daesh recruiters is in places where the rule of law doesn’t apply and the important role local authorities can play in fighting radicalisation.

Mayor Françoise Schepmans (BE / MR) identified social isolation, the vulnerability of young people and the lack of opportunities as factors contributing to a fertile ground for radicalisation. She highlighted that the politics of inclusion and building bridges between communities are fundamental to improve the feeling of alienation among Muslims in Molenbeek.

The main findings of the survey showed that the local Molenbeek people don’t support extremism as it is seen as a deliberate distortion of religion. Terrorism and extremism are not their main concerns but unemployment and education are, showing that they don’t differ much from other communities. These findings vindicate and strengthen our liberal approach of inclusion to counter radicalisation on a European level.

Read Bart Somers’ full opinion, available in all official EU languages, here.