Belgian interior minister Jan Jambon said on Saturday that a “significant” part of the Muslim population celebrated attacks, blaming the country’s policies for failing to integrate migrants into society.
He did not, however, explicitly refer to last month’s jihadist attacks on Brussels’ airport and metro system that killed 32 people
“A significant section of the Muslim community danced when attacks took place,” Jambon said in an interview with the Flemish-language De Standaard newspaper.
The Belgian minister also accused Muslim residents of Brussels’ largely immigrant Molenbeek neighbourhood of attacking police during an operation last month to arrest a suspect in connection with the deadly attacks in Paris last November.
“They threw stones and bottles at police and press during the arrest of Salah Abdeslam. This is the real problem. Terrorists we can pick up, remove from society. But they are just a boil. Underneath is a cancer that is much more difficult to treat. We can do it, but it won’t be overnight,” he said.
Jambon, whose New Flemish Alliance party has been a key part of Belgium’s ruling centre-right coalition since 2014, previously offered to resign in the wake of the Brussels attacks.
In today’s interview he said that the danger linked to the radicalisation of youth from third and fourth generation families is “too deeply rooted” in some areas because Belgium “have for many years ignored the warning signs”.
Following the November 13 attacks in neighbouring France, Jambon sparked controversy when he promised to “clean Molenbeek” when it emerged that several of the attackers had links to the impoverished district of the Belgian capital.