The Belgian police have arrested one of the two men who mugged and murdered Joe Van Holsbeeck. The 17 year old Belgian was knifed on 12 April during rush hour in Brussels Central Station when he refused to hand over his MP3 player. The arrested person is a 16 year old immigrant of Polish origin. The police know the identity of his accomplice (the one who is actually believed to have used the knife). He, too, is said to be a 16 year old Pole.
It was generally assumed that the murderers were North Africans because violent gangs of North Africans are active in the city, especially in the no-go areas which include parts of Molenbeek. Fouad Ahidar, a Moroccan-born Flemish member of the Brussels regional parliament, at whose initiative last Sunday’s commemoration march for Joe was held, said after the murder: “This murder stinks of racism. [...] There is a growing group of criminal Moroccan and Turkish youths who go after victims who look like infidels. We have to fight racism in all its varieties, whether by the immigrants or the native community.” The march drew 80,000 participants – native Belgians as well as immigrants.
Today, Anissa Temsamani, a Turkish born Flemish parliamentarian, told the newspaper De Morgen that political parties like her own Socialists, must address the security concerns of the people lest they all start voting for the anti-immigration party Vlaams Belang (VB). Temsamani said:
“The Socialists should not keep silent about immigrants. We should not allow the VB to monopolize the issue. The Flemish Socialists have sound ideas about rights and duties. We must speak out. […] All too often, also in my party, we use the wrong strategy. ‘Security and immigrants are VB issues,’ [we say]. ‘We are not going to talk about this, because it will strengthen the VB.’ This is wrong […] because people are worried about the immigration issue. If you talk to ordinary men and women you hear it day after day.”
Asked by De Morgen whether she wants to become the Belgian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she replied:
“I do not need Hirsi Ali to say that immigrants have been pampered for far too long. But I take a moderate view, for example about the hijab. Do not get me wrong, it makes me angry when I see these lazy younger brothers force their older sisters to wear it. But on Sunday [during the commemoration march] I heard two women complain in Arabic how difficult it is to wear such a thing. I turned round and asked: ‘But why do you wear it then?’ ‘Well,’ they said, ‘we usually don’t, but today, [during the march] we feel we have to, in order to show that immigrants are present here as well.”
The Belgians hope that the arrest of Joe’s murderers indicates a change in the current pattern of lawlessness. After the Van Holsbeeck murder Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt and Cardinal Godfried Danneels blamed Belgians for their indifference because no-one in the crowded central station had interfered to stop the murderers from stabbing the boy. Glenn Audenaert, the chief of the Brussels judiciary, told the paper Het Nieuwsblad (18 April):
“The police cannot be present everywhere. Security is a collective responsibility. As citizens we are all partially responsible for the security of other citizens.”
In a country where it is illegal to bear arms, including protective ‘arms’ such as a pepperspray, people wonder how they should protect themselves and others against armed criminals if the state, which now acknowledges that it cannot be present everywhere [not even in Brussels Central Station during rush hour], abandons them and tells them that the security of fellow citizens is their responsibility.
In 1999, Wouter Tyberghien, a young jeweller in the Flemish town of Harelbeke, took the law into his own hands and shot a Polish gangster, who together with two accomplices had rammed his jewellery shop with an SUV. The jeweller, who had been robbed before, was arrested and jailed, which caused widespread public indignation. Tyberghien was convicted for manslaughter and has since closed down his business. He said that he loved his trade, but does not want to go through the same ordeal again, explaining that he fears that if he is ever targeted by criminals again he will not be able to resist the urge to fight back.
Today the announcement that Joe Van Holsbeeck’s murderers are not North African but Polish immigrants has led to reproaches of racism against everyone (including this website) who during these past days has warned about the problem posed by violent gangs of youths of a particular ethnicity. While until yesterday it looked as if a taboo would finally be addressed, it is now far more likely that the taboo will be suppressed and the situation will fester on.
And yet, while the regime and the establishment close their eyes in denial, ordinary people are aware of what is going on. It would be interesting to know how many Belgians buy peppersprays in Germany and France – and, hence, how many have come to realize that for their own protection they can count only on themselves and no longer on the state.