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But transcripts of the police interrogations show that he was, as his father calls him, “the golden witness.”In 1994, Dimitri Bontinck, then a twenty-year-old night-club bouncer, travelled to West Africa on holiday, where he met and married Rose, a Nigerian woman with strict Catholic beliefs.
Their son, Jejoen, was born in southern Nigeria the following year; the family moved to Belgium shortly afterward.
At the time, no mosque in Belgium conducted Friday prayers in Dutch, so Muslims who didn’t speak Arabic or Turkish had difficulty following sermons.
De Koepel became a home not only for converts but for hundreds of second- and third-generation Moroccans and Turks.
2009, a fourteen-year-old Belgian named Jejoen Bontinck slipped a sparkly white glove onto his left hand, squeezed into a sequinned black cardigan, and appeared on the reality-television contest “Move Like Michael Jackson.” He had travelled to Ghent from his home, in Antwerp, with his father, Dimitri, who wore a pin-striped suit jacket and oversized sunglasses, and who told the audience that he was Jejoen’s manager, mental coach, and personal assistant.
Still, Dimitri saw Jejoen’s new habits as a kind of teen-age rebellion. The mission of Sharia4Belgium, established the previous year, was to transform Belgium into a state governed as the cities of Raqqa, in Syria, and Mosul, in Iraq, are today: replace the parliament with a shura council and the Prime Minister with a caliph; stone adulterers and execute homosexuals; and convert or banish all non-Muslims, or force them to pay , a tax levied on those who don’t adhere to the faith.
About four thousand European jihadis have gone to Syria since the outbreak of war, in 2011, more than four hundred from Belgium.
(It is estimated that at least a hundred Americans have joined the fight.) The migration of youths from seemingly stable and prosperous communities to fight with radical Islamists has bewildered not only their families but governments and security forces throughout Europe.
Dimitri told me that he served in the military, and then in a U. peacekeeping mission to Bosnia, before taking an administrative position in the Antwerp court system.
When Jejoen was eight, the Bontincks had a daughter, Iris.