Molenbeek mayor Françoise Schepmans (photo) has threatened legal action for defamation against the British newspaper pundit Katie Hopkins over a report Hopkins made for the tabloid news channel Rebel News in which she described Molenbeek as the “jihad capital” of Europe. In the report, Hopkins, who is not a journalist, interviews Schepmans over the fact that the mayor had been given a list of names of people to watch in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015. The list included the name, among others, of Salah Abdeslam, who was later found to have taken part in the attacks, as well as those in March 2016 which hit Zaventem and Brussels.
Schepmans explains that the local police in Molenbeek do not have the power to arrest anyone simply on suspicion of extremist activity, without more solid evidence. Hopkins later ends her report by breaking down in tears, claiming that Schepmans is shirking her responsibility.
Later, Hopkins appeared as a guest on the Fox News show of another pundit, Tucker Carlson, in which she claims Molenbeek is the “jihad capital” of Europe. She also tells the audience that police and politicians in Molenbeek turn a blind eye to radicalist activity in order to garner votes from a population she claims is 85% Muslim (the true figure is closer to 40%).
Schepmans’ complaint was triggered by a further claim by Hopkins suggesting that an explosion and fire at a warehouse in neighbouring Koekelberg might have been linked to jihad. Schepmans tweeted that the claim was “absolutely false” and accused Hopkins of “scandalous working methods”. The municipal council is due to meet on Friday, when the proposal regarding a complaint to the public prosecutor will be considered.
Katie Hopkins first came to public notice as a contestant on the reality show The Apprentice in the UK, when her abrasive personality and unfiltered opinions took her to the final, only for her to decide not to continue. She has since made a career out of peddling controversial opinions in the tabloid press and online.