'The minority of Muslims who are extremists make society sick'

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Are such sentiments fair? If so, what - if anything - should be done to alleviate the situation? RT brought together Tom Van Grieken, from the right-wing Flemish nationalist party Vlaams Belang, and former MEP Glyn Ford to debate the issue.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel has backed Interior Minister Jan Jambon’s comment that many Muslims cheered the Brussels bombings. He said: “A significant section of the Muslim community danced when the attacks took place.”

RT: Glyn what do you think about the Belgian politician' statements? Doesn't the fact that there was cheering at the attacks set a worrying precedent in itself?

Glyn Ford: Well, this is the first time I’ve heard of it. It’s interesting that it has taken us some weeks before we have a report on this. I’m sure there are one or two individuals in the privacy of their own homes who may be very pleased. They clearly have a support from a network of safe houses. The overwhelming majority of Belgium Muslims were not cheering what was going on. I live on the edge of Molenbeek in Brussels and I’ve seen absolutely no evidence of this. There is actually a replica of many of the similar claims that we’ve had time and time again about Muslims in Britain cheering the London bombings, Muslims in the US cheering 9/11, all of which turned out to be frankly a fabrication.

RT: Tom, wouldn't trying to make an example of this case only increase the divide in society and lead to worsening Islamophobia?

Tom Van Grieken: I think what he said as a statement – that’s another cause of the problem. Denying the problem that there is a significant part of the Muslim population who cheers for it… Talk to simple school teachers, who teach in schools, where the majority are Muslim. They will say there is a lot of sympathy for IS.

Also Belgium, my country, is where the most positive Tweets for ISIS come from. There is a true problem with a big part of the Muslim community. Do I say that a majority of Muslims are extremists? Of course not! But the moderate majority is irrelevant. The strong minority of the Muslim community who is extremist – those are the ones who make our society sick. I was not shocked with what the minister said. We made that analysis, that diagnostic 20 years ago. There is something wrong with Islam; there is something wrong with the Muslim community in our country.

RT: Glyn, you mentioned earlier you lived on the outskirts of the Molenbeek, which, according to a survey, has one of the highest number of jihadists traveling abroad to Syria and countries like that. Isn’t that a cause for concern as Tom says?

GF: Of course the fact that people are going from a number of EU member states to fight with IS in Syria is a cause for concern. But we need to get it into context. The fact that there are hundreds out of tens of thousands of young people who are going abroad to fight with IS, whether that’s in Belgium, whether it’s in France, whether it’s in the UK, is a problem to be dealt with. To translate that over – the fact there are supposedly tens of thousands of Muslims cheering these bombing attacks is a complete nonsense. That is not the case.

I’ve seen no reports; I’m currently in the US, maybe there were reports in the last three or four days, but I’ve seen no reports of teachers making the kind of claims that the majority of their students are supporting IS, reported in the Belgium press, the British press, or anywhere else.

RT: Tom, do you have an answer to what Glyn has said?

TVG: Of course it’s denial. I truly understand what my Labour colleague says; actually it has a name, the ‘Stockholm syndrome.’ His country and his party is held hostage by Muslim communities. I will give you only one number of a study from the University of Berlin, which says: The Muslim population in Belgium – 70 percent of the Muslim population – believes that the Quran, the word of Allah, is higher than our national democratic laws, which means there are something fundamentally wrong in this country…

If you live at the border of Molenbeek, please take some footage there. There are no more Belgium or Flemish people there. When they arrested [Salah] Abdeslam one of the terrorists in Paris the police and the media were attacked by the whole community – not only the extremists. The whole Muslim community in Molenbeek knew where he lived and they all kept their mouths shut, because they believe the Muslim belief is higher than our civil laws and that’s something that is completely wrong. Therefore I am not shocked by the minister who said those things, but I’m really shocked they didn’t propose any solutions for this cancer growing – not only in Brussels, not only in all the big cities of Belgium, but in a lot of big cities throughout Europe.

RT: What about the problem of a lot of Muslims not properly integrating into Western society? A recent poll in the UK showed Muslims had issues with European principals, such as gay relations, women’s rights. There is a real problem here to be addressed, isn't there?

GF: So do the very many people who vote for the Vlaams Belang. The Vlaams Belang shares many Muslim views on issues like gay relationships and the rest. They are both wrong.

TVG: … I believe in the law and I would respect the law. That is something that a big majority of Muslims will not do. They refuse to shake hands with women; they think homosexuality is a disease, which I do not think… May I be quite clear about the following? Maybe gay people can marry and bring up children in this country, but, as you all know, that the physical attacks against gay people are on the rise. In my country gay people can marry, but they get hit by a small [group of] Arab Muslims. Therefore, the rise of attacks, violence against the gay population, is also a direct consequence of mass immigration and Islamization of our cities.

GF: Do you condemn the fascist thugs who attacked the memorial… and who harassed Muslims who were there expressing this solidarity with those who had been killed, those who had been injured in the attacks? Does the Vlaams Belang condemn those people and demand that they be prosecuted for what they did? Because certainly the message was that many of them were Vlaams Belang members.

TVG: I think you should join Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the propaganda department; I think you’d do good at spreading lies. Yes, I condemn every form of violence. I am a democratic person. But I also condemn media manipulation. There was hardly anything wrong there: there were anti-fascists who made big violence, a big fuss about a simple demonstration, where there were firms from football clubs from all over the country, from the Flemish to the French, showing their way, on their style their respect. There was nothing wrong with that. It was the provocateurs who made a whole mess of it…

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.