This year, Brussels will be represented in Olympics by Mourad Laachraoui, a taekwondo champion with a number of accolades to his name. But one thing overshadows Laachraoui's many achievements — his blood ties to one of the most reviled terrorists in all of Europe, Najim Laachraoui.
On March 22 of this year, Najim plunged the entire continent into frenzy when he detonated a suicide bomb at the Brussels airport. Thirty-two people died because of his cowardly act of terrorism.
In the aftermath of the attack, the "refugee question" arose across Europe yet again. Rightists argued that Muslim refugees should not be allowed to build a secure life in Brussels. Hate crimes spiked in Brussels, such as when a Muslim woman was run down by anti-refugee protesters. The ripples were felt in the U.S. as well, where presidential candidates like Donald Trump tried to use the attack to rally momentum around his anti-refugee stance.
But Mourad Laachraoui and his country have risen above the ugly memories of the attack. On May 19, Laachraoui won gold at the Europe Taekwondo Championships in Switzerland. And then, in a country where merit outweighs bigotry, Laachraoui was chosen to represent Brussels.
Speaking of his brother, Laachraoui admitted that Najim never showed any signs of being radicalized. He had spoken about his brother on March 25, remembering him as the kind and intelligent brother of his memories.
“You don’t choose your family,” he said.