In a divided nation, Muslims say they’re more Belgian than ever

BBqUjSGBRUSSELS — It was Muslims.

That was the first worry of Melek Dogan, a 21-year-old Belgian woman, when she heard of the blasts at the Brussels airport and subway.

In a country where wearing a headscarf or having an Arab-sounding name can often spell joblessness and suspicion, many Belgian Muslims are doubling down on national spirit even as they fear renewed discrimination from their fellow citizens. The pain is especially biting for the young, most of whom have never known a home other than Belgium and are facing down attackers with common backgrounds. The brothers in the attacks were 29 and 27. A suspected Islamic State bomb maker was just 24. All grew up in Belgium.

With Muslims among the dead and injured, many in Belgium’s Muslim communities say that they are fed up with being tarred by the actions of men whose attacks hit them as badly as the other residents of this nation. And in an only-in-Belgium inversion, many are reaffirming their patriotism even though some of the country’s most powerful leaders are ethnic nationalists who want to split the country into pieces.

“To me, origins don’t really matter,” said Dogan, who was born in Belgium of Turkish immigrant parents. “I’m Belgian.”
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