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Muslims In Brussels Hold Rally To Show Rejection Of ISIS


A large crowd gathered in Belgium today to show support for the victims of the Paris attacks. The rally was also designed to boost morale in the Brussels suburb where the event took place. It's where some of the attackers lived. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: The central square in Molenbeek has been swarming with journalists ever since the Paris attacks. Today was a different scene.


SARAH TURINE: (Speaking French).

KENYON: Molenbeek's deputy mayor, Sarah Turine, urged the crowd to be patient with the heightened security checks coming into the square and to show the world that Molenbeek stands with the innocent victims of Paris and against hatred. To the outside world, Molenbeek is the place linked to at least four of the Paris attackers. One, Salah Abdesalam, is still at large. To many in Brussels, it's a scary place. Some taxi drivers refuse to take fares here.

Eihab Arjoub, a stocky young man helping to light candles in the middle of the main square, says people need to realize that this largely Muslim neighborhood overwhelmingly condemns these senseless killings.

EIHAB ARJOUB: Actually, first of all, we are with the victims of Paris before everything, obviously, and then to show the people of the world that we are not all animals.

KENYON: There is also pain here at the thought that young men from Molenbeek are involved in a major terrorist attack. There's plenty of anger at what they did, but there's also anger at the Belgian government for doing so little to give young people growing up in Molenbeek a chance to build a better life.

Sophia Court-Real came to Brussels from Portugal 23 years ago. She says it's astonishing to realize that here in the home of the European Union, there can be huge gaps in services, especially schools, if you're not well-off.

SOPHIA COURT-REAL: Here in Brussels, the schools are terrible. If you have a child, you want to put him in school, you have, really, to run to put - to try to find a good school. Good schools are very difficult to find in spite we are in the heart of Europe.

KENYON: A young woman who gives only her first name, Gisso, who came here from the Congo, says the atrocities committed in Paris have rightly focused world attention on these killings, but she hopes that compassion can also spread to other places where innocent people are dying.

GISSO: This should remind us that we should keep an open eye on what is happening everywhere and not only close by.

KENYON: In France, officials say Salah Abdesalam was not caught up in today's police raid in Northern Paris. For residents here, that means more days of uncertainty ahead. Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Molenbeek. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
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