Two brothers among those responsible for the attacks on Paris came from a Molenbeek. Molenbeek is an immigrant district in Brussels — impoverished, and considered a jihadi hotbed.
One did us the service of making sure this would be his final such attack. The other fled back over the border and is among the most-wanted men in Europe.
But this isn’t a story about them. I’m more interested in the role of his family member. There is a third brother in this family. He’s got a government job in Belgium. Guess what he does?
If you guessed Immigration, you’re right!
This third brother was picked up for questioning. Police were satisfied that his alibi checks out, meaning that on Friday night, this 3rd brother could not have been present among the attackers.
Mohammed — that’s the immigration department official’s name — gave all the proper responses: “None of us knew… we’re very shocked… we think about the families…” together with what would ordinarily be a very natural addition “you have to understand that we also have a mother, we have a family, that these remain, despite everything, her children.”
It is possible that this is the response of someone who was duped, and was as blindsided as the rest of us (we’ve seen similar responses from people who knew home-grown serial killers). Or it could be the scripted response he needs to give in the public eye.
Whether he was complicit or a dupe, this raises the question: have personal connections by unsavoury people to officials with positions like Mohamed’s been exploited to bypass the safeguards in place that might otherwise be protecting the general public from exactly these situations?
Are there other such officials in positions of influence, shaping immigration decisions and policy in Belgium and elsewhere throughout Europe?
Which other people or groups might be quietly shaping policy decisions closer to home? What political pressure is being quietly brought to bear within our own borders?