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For five days, Brussels, the capital of Belgium, was in lockdown following the horrific terror attacks in Paris by Islamic State militants, in which 130 people were killed. The Prime Minister warned of a ‘serious and imminent’ threat of co-ordinated, multiple attacks by militants. The metro and schools were closed, large events were cancelled, and people were warned to avoid crowds.

A 27-year-old Belgian man, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was killed in a Police raid, was the mastermind behind the November 13 Paris attacks. Another leading suspect, Salah Abdeslam, also from Belgium, is the focus of a major manhunt.

The fact that the Paris terror attacks had been planned in Belgium has raised questions about why it is that the country features so strongly in Islamic extremism. Belgium is known to have provided a steady flow of fighters to ISIS – including Abaaoud – with 85 of the 130 jihadists known to have returned from Syria living in the Brussels district of Molenbeek. This commune of 100,000 people, with its large immigrant population and high levels of unemployment, has been identified as a centre of Islamic activism.

With the threat of terrorist attacks escalating globally, world leaders are anxious to better understand the factors that give rise to extremism. They want to minimise the danger of terrorism in their home countries. While these are complex issues, it appears that high levels of disadvantage in communities that are isolated from the country’s dominant culture, can create a climate of social exclusion in which radicalism can flourish.

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