Edition: U.S. | Arabic | Set Pref
February 10, 2009
One Woman's War
Watch the program: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

LONDON, England -- When I got off the Eurostar train I’d taken from London to Brussels there was nothing to suggest I was in a city that has ties to radical Islamic terrorism.

Quite the reverse, the very nature of Euro train terminus at the Gare du Midi is, dare I say it, quintessential busy modern Europe. Neat Euro bistros bustle with a cosmopolitan collection of travelers from as close as the suburbs to people like me who’ve taken the short two-hour ride from Britain.

So I suppose it felt a little strange to be here in a city that on the surface doesn’t have a terrorism problem.

Indeed, compared to many places I travel like the Middle East or Afghanistan, it felt positively tame.

I’d come to tell the story of Malika el Aroud, a 49-year-old Belgian-Moroccan woman who had one husband killed in a high profile al Qaeda suicide attack and has herself been convicted in Switzerland of running a Web site promoting terrorism.

Somehow I felt in the wrong place. Not so, when barely an hour later we are being accosted by a bunch of angry young men while filming in a neighborhood barely five minutes' drive from the station. I was coming face to face with an undercurrent that passes most people by. It was to be an undercurrent I would come across again and again during my stay.

The Belgian police chief told us that because of high levels of immigration, seven out of 10 children at schools in Brussels cannot speak either of Belgium's mother tongues -- French or Flemish. He explained that Brussels' immigrant population has become segregated, in some places physically, from the rest of society.

That segregation has heightened resentment over poor housing, poor education and poor job prospects for many immigrants and their children.

When I met Malika el Aroud’s family they gave me a more nuanced understanding of what makes young Muslim men and women angry and why their sister’s angry postings on her jihadi Web site resonate with so many.

At first, Malika’s sister Saida and brother Mohammed were reticent about opening up to us.

Slowly they understood we’d come to hear their story, understand more about Malika, who she is and what motivates her. They don’t buy the police account that their sister is tied to al Qaeda. What they see is a woman who is angry enough and strong enough to express here feelings. They concede she has never been very diplomatic.

But as I listened to Saida and Mohammed I realized the anger we’d seen and felt on streets had its roots in something much bigger than social marginalization in Belgium.

Saida is not like her sister -- she is secular, doesn’t cover her hair. She runs a business employing more than 40 people. She says she hasn’t read Malika’s Web site diatribes calling for death to U.S. soldiers but she, her brother, and her young nephew and niece whom she brought to meet us, all agreed that they still feel frustrated when Muslims are killed.

I’d just come back from covering the situation in Gaza and we talked at length about it. They were very sympathetic to the hundreds of Palestinian families who’d lost children and loved ones during Israel’s three-week offensive. They admit they don’t agree with everything Malika has written, but they do think she is right to speak out.

As they explained how they felt, I realized how Malika’s family, apart from their ties to her, are like so many other Muslim families living not just in Brussels but in Europe.

By the time we ready to board the Eurostar train back to London I’d learned a lot. Not least, according to the police, the most radical mosque in the city, the Tawhid Mosque, was in fact barely a stones throw from the cobbled taxi rank at the Gare du Midi.

Sinking in to my seat as the train pulled out of the station I was struck by the scale of the task Europe’s police forces face.

-- By CNN Senior International Correspondent, Nic Robertson
Dear Nic
It's not only Europe police that faces a huge threat. It's European society as a whole.
At some point Europeans will have to make a decision; whether they want to continue being Europeans or will concede to the islamisation of Europe. That will be the end of Europe as we know it, and we'll go back to Al-Andalus.
quote: "The Belgian police chief told us that because of high levels of immigration, seven out of 10 children at schools in Belgium cannot speak either of Belgium's mother tongues -- French or Flemish."
--> that's uncorrect information.
It's certainly not correct that this is the case in all of Belgium. It is true however that a lot of children that go to school in Brussels do not speak french or flemish at home. This means they often need extra language-tutoring in the first years of primary school.
It is surprising that you are struck by the magnitude of the problem that Europe's police faces, but not by the gross injustice which is the root cause of the problems. A country has been ravaged and its culture and economy shred apart for "suspected WMDs", whereas another country blatantly and openly uses white phosphorus and other banned, cruel, inhuman weapons against civilians and innocent children and that country is protected by European and American leaders. The solution to these problems lie in the hands of politicians, not police.
Great story! Oh, wait, so you say that the fifth column is violent and bites the hand that feeds it... I´d say it wasn´t news except that the sympathetic tone that is almost self hating that the author uses displays the very reasons that defeat the enlightedness of european society. You cry out against the injustices that sooth the rabid dog inside your own house rather than prescribe to the medication, at the cost of fantasy ideals.
Nic... great insight! People all over the world still don't realise how important was the forced immigration some European Countries had, because of their own failure to do menial, hands-on, mechanic and many other tasks considered then as "lowly". Comfort won over strategy, as it always does. The sense of familiy among faithful muslims is traditional, sacred and undisputable. Not so in most of Europe. That may be one of the most powerful reasons why most Countries can't acknowledge this is something they created for their own comfort and never thought that cutting birthrate percenteges to less than 1.2 and "live comfortably" would eventually lead to Muslims overtaking the roles Europeans were supposed to honour. It's complicated, mainly, because of religion and hatred; because of blindness and desperate measures that were not poised to work in the long run. But, alas! if it were not for immigrants in Europe, Europeans may be doomed to disappear from the face of the earth by 2050, or, at least, be a very small minority.
Hi Nic,
You did'nt have to travel all the way to Brussels to find out about Malika's War. Just walk down the main streets of the Big City (London) and see how the churches are converted to mosques. And you have'nt seen anything yet. Just wait and see when Turkey becomes an EU member. Then all Europeans will be migrants in their own countries. You will not be allowed to excercise your faith openly because you might offend the Muslims!! Wake up Europe!!!
Yes, they're always angry about non-Muslims killing Muslims but are strangely silent when it comes to their own. Perhaps it's OK if it's your own group.
Hypocrites!
Many third world and poor countries have Christian societies .Why doesn't Europe and the US encourage these to immigrate?No Christian immigrant posed any threat to the countries that hosted them.On the contrary they fit in very well and contributed to these countries instead of wanting to destroy everything Western societies stand for.
If Muslims don't like the way Europeans live and behave ......let them go back to where they came from.
I agree with anonymous :Why this self hating attitude?Why soothe the rabid dog in your household?
You are all so naive .Better wake up before it is too late !
Well to answer the first commentator, Al-Andalus was one of Europe's most enlightened eras where Jews had their "safest" periods. So I don't think you can use it as a negative example.

Anyways as a Muslim myself who has lived in Europe but came back to the Middle East, I agree that European Muslims are not doing enough to adapt to their host countries. If they don't like it the should move. But freedom of expression is a sacred right, a right that these immigrants seek when they move to Europe. Linking this writer's comments on the Americans with Al Qaeda is simply stupid and useless
hi
I'm shocked about her website in Switzerland - how is it possible Swiss authoritiestolerate this ?
I Dont know what goes wrong in these peoples mind...
Are these people mentally ill?
I dont think, that in her life something happed which is abnormal, there are a lot of people who go through the same pain in life (Europieans too), but they never turn down becomimng a terrorist and make other people to kill some!
I think its all the same old Problem -> Religion...
I dont think that the religions will bring us any good things rather than making us to hate other people as they belong to some other religions."some people will disagree with my thought by saying that they dont hate people following other religions but these people try to avoid any contact with or just be away or talk to the point and leave and they never integreate with.." I find that the Religionklasses in Schools of Europe are one of the majour problem.. I think, religion has nothing to do in schools... if some one want it, he has Sunday for it...!!!
The problem arrises from the schools where muslims or any other religious students are seperated. and so the integretion fails.. the seperated people feel bad and so.... they start believing more in their religion and thier community... and some day a terrorist is bourn... because he is left alone...
I am a Muslim and have to say that i hate this woman and what she represents! Her husband killed a great Muslim leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, and she serves the deviant Osama bin Ladin! These people are a cancer to Islam which is a righteous religion; there is nothing righteous about suicide and killing non-combatants in false wars. Truly the Muslims around the world are oppressed and in a very bad state, but this is not the way of our righteous Prophet; may Allah help us all!
What can unite various religious people is the Truth. It is unique for the reality is one, not multiple. There is a criterion of truth in Religion: the true religion had been confermed and always is confermed by God Himself.You will not accept any paper as a banknote,will you? - Then, search the real seal God has put on His book and His messenger.
Dear Nic
Please meet some of the kith & Kin of the people who were were butchred by Terrorist.Malika el Aroud has slightest sympathy for Them ?
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