• Books: Bury the Chains by Adam Hochschild, Endless War: Hidden Functions of the "war on terror" by David Keen, Capital Vol. 1, Tin Drum by Günter Grass, What is Islam? by Shahab Ahmed, Desiring Arabs by Joseph Massad, Spies, Soldiers and Statesmen by Hazem Kandil, La Condition Humaine by André Malraux, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, Imagined Community by Benedict Anderson, Culture and Imperialism by Edward Said, The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon, The Richness of Life by Stephen Jay Gould, Children of the Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, The Mass Psychology of Fascism by Wilhelm Reich, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 by George Orwell, Noli me Tangere by José Rizal, Age of Extremes by Eric Hobsbawm, ذهنية التحريم لصادق جلال العظم, Karl Marx by Francis Wheen, وليمة لأعشاب البحر لحيدر حيدر, Candide by Voltaire, النزعات المادية في الفلسفة العربية الإسلامية لحسين مروة, Listen Little Man by Wilhelm Reich ..
  • Films: Alexanderplatz by Rainer Fassbinder, Clockwork Orange, Apocalypse Now, The Battle of Algiers, films by P. P. Passolini, Persepolis, Midnight Express, 1984, Papillion, Gangs of New York, Sophie Scholl, Life of Brian, Ivan the Terrble, Battleship Potemkine ...

Friday, March 25, 2016

"Certainly, many of those who joined IS from the area did not come from particularly religious backgrounds.
There is certainly a sense of disaffection among many in Molenbeek. I spent an evening on a street corner talking to one young Muslim man who had been accused of attempting to travel to Syria. 
He alternated between fixing me with an intense stare, and refusing to make any eye contact - exuding an air of slight volatility. Initially when I told him I wanted to understand why someone would commit an attack like the one in Paris - he told me I should travel to Raqqa, and ask people there. For him Western air strikes against IS were the answer. 
But then he changed his mind. It was the fault of domestic conditions. He railed against the Belgian government - against white Belgians, who hated those of Arab descent, he said. And he would repeat "there is no democracy here" - a feeling that you can't express any view dissenting from the mainstream without being labelled extreme.
Salah Abdeslam and his elder brother Brahim - who blew himself up in the Paris attacks - used to run a cafe in Molenbeek that sold alcohol and was closed down for drug offences. One friend of the brothers who used to hang out there told me he would regularly see Brahim Abdeslam "watching IS videos, with a joint in one hand, and a beer in another". He said Brahim would spout off radical statements but that no-one took him seriously. 
Another friend showed me a video from a Brussels nightclub of the two Abdeslam brothers on a night out with girls, drinking and dancing - this was February 2015, just months before they started to plan the attacks in Paris.
Sheikh Bassam Ayachi used to be considered a leading radical preacher in Molenbeek.
Over Skype I asked him why he thought so many young people from his old neighbourhood in Molenbeek were joining IS - a group he believes "sully the name of Islam, and sully the name of the Syrian revolution".
He put it down to the lack of action against the Assad regime on the one hand, and domestic factors on the other.
"The young people from Molenbeek feel frustrated because they were marginalised by the Belgian government. They have never tried to give them work, education, social help in order to get them integrated into society," he said.

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