The Belgian capital Brussels was in lockdown last weekend after the government announced a terrorism alert.
The Metro underground rail network was shut while the army patrolled deserted streets. And cops carried out raid after raid.
Farida Aarrass is part of the Parents Campaign against Police Violence in the borough of Molenbeek.
She told Socialist Worker that there were “loads more raids in quite a few homes” on Friday of last week.
“You could hear terrified children shouting and crying,” she said.
“We were all saddened by the attacks in Paris, but we never thought we’d be demonised for it. Now everyone here is frightened.
“It’s becoming unbearable. All the parents are worried that their children could be beaten, locked up or taken away as terrorists—which they’re not.”
Europe’s media has singled out Molenbeek—home to many Muslims and north African migrants—as a “capital of jihad”.
In France far right bestselling author Eric Zemmour even called for it to be bombed.
Farida said, “The reality is nothing like the message that’s being spread.
“That’s about stigmatising a whole Muslim community, to spread fear and terror and justify new repressive measures.”
Molenbeek’s high crime rate has been reported as an undisputed fact, but it’s only slightly above the Brussels average.
Poverty levels are starker. Unemployment is high—over 40 percent for under 25s. Molenbeek is in the heart of Brussels. Rich and poor live side by side.
The establishment consensus is that Belgium’s fractured political system has stopped it “tackling” supposed problem areas.
But Nordine Saidi, an activist in the Brussels Panthers campaign group, told Socialist Worker, “The daily presence of the police is one of the main reasons people feel unsafe.
“They come down in huge numbers, creating a sense of being under siege, encircled by an occupying army.
“There have been serious incidents linked to these interventions, often classed as ‘anti-terrorist’.
“People stopped by the police experience ethnic profiling, humiliation and racist language. And if they resist they are charged.”
The clampdown in Belgium mirrors that in France, where a state of emergency has let police carry out raids without seeking warrants. They raided almost 1,000 homes and other buildings last week.
Anti-terror cops with machine guns were even used to evict squatters in Lille.
A police source told local newspaper Voice of the North, “Since they’re mobilised at the moment, we’re making the most of it.”
But the repression has overwhelmingly targeted Muslims. Cops have raided several mosques and left them in disarray.
At Aubervilliers, near Saint Denis, cops turned down the offer of a key to the mosque, preferring to knock the door down.
Police evacuated a train to jump on one man, reported for watching an action film while bearded and wearing gloves. This repression has given racists confidence.
The Collective Against Islamophobia in France reports a sharp rise in Muslims reporting harassment.
Farida said Belgium had also seen a “rise in racism and Islamophobia”.
She said, “Those with small children are becoming afraid to take them to school.
“Those with older children call them all the time to check they are ok.”
The alert has now been extended to at least the end of this week. Farida said, “These measures will let the cops behave even worse.”
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