Islamic State (Isis) militants are reportedly sending text messages to young Muslims in immigrant neighbourhoods in Brussels in an attempt to drive them towards jihad. Police officials were alerted to the "fight the Westerners" text messages by a regional lawmaker who called on the government to tackle the radicalisation of Muslim youth.
"Our young people in danger because [of] predators!" tweeted Jamal Ikazban, a regional lawmaker from the Molenbeek neighbourhood in Brussels. "Fascists threaten neighbourhoods who are harassed by jihadis propaganda SMS. What is the government doing to protect our young people?"
Ikazban shared a copy of the text message which was reportedly sent to several young Muslims in his neighbourhood on 27 March. "Warning SMS of this type are sent to our young people; I hope you can make good use," said Ikazban along with a copy of the message in French that read: "My brothers, why not join us in the fight against the Westerners, make good choices in your life."
The messages were sent from a prepaid account that could not be traced and it remains uncertain how the recruiters gained access to the recipients' contact numbers.
"They are being exposed to something like a cancer at a metastasic stage," said Jamal Zaria, an imam at Molenbeek's Arafat mosque. "It is really spreading very quickly. We have to race against time to develop an immune system for the children in our community so that they reject the message of Daesh [Isis]."
According to another report, a 15-year-old boy was approached by a man at a Brussels mosque and encouraged to join IS. "He showed me a video with people who said they died as martyrs...they went to their deaths laughing, smiling," the boy told Europe 1 radio. "He told me, 'if you die, you'll have paradise.'"