Why were there only 40 imams at the march against terrorism in Brussels?

The Muslim march against terrorism stopped in Brussels on Monday. While a dozen Belgian imams attended the gathering, but the overall number of Muslims who participated was slim.

“After the sacred month, imams are exhausted and must rest. They only have the months of July and August to do so. This march was planned at a bad time,” said Fathallah Abdessalam, the Islamic councillor at the Forest prison. “If I have attended, it’s because I don’t want to be part of the silent majority that lets a minority act in the name of Islam.”

“I find that when someone commits a deadly, punishable act, we shouldn’t describe him in the name of his religion. We should only describe him as Mr. or Mrs. X,” he added.

Salah Echallaoui, who is president of the country’s main representative body, the Muslim Executive of Belgium (EMB), did not attend.The EMB supported the march, contrary to France’s principal Muslim organization, the French Council of the Muslim Faith. He sent a Belgian imam in his place.

 

Turkish Referendum : The diaspora said “yes” to Erdogan

The 16 April 2017, a constitutional referendum in Turkey increased President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers. According to the Turkish press agency Anadolu and the news website Ouest France, the Turkish diaspora living in Europe has largely supported Erdogan in their vote.

Despite a context of tension between the Turkish President and European governments, the level of support of Erdogan is undeniable among Turkish communities in Europe. Especially in the countries where the largest communities live. The vote in favor of Erdogan reached 63 % in Germany, 77 % in Belgium, 73% in Austria, 70% in the Netherlands, 65% in France.

According to Kareem Shaheen, writing for the Guardian: “The result of the referendum sets the stage for a transformation of the upper echelons of the state and changing the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic, arguably the most important development in the country’s history since it was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman Republic”. (April, 16)

 

Source :

http://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/turquie/comment-la-diaspora-turque-en-europe-t-elle-vote-au-referendum-4938460

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/16/erdogan-claims-victory-in-turkish-constitutional-referendum

EU’s highest Court rules on headscarf at work

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has been asked to make a decision on two cases related to the wearing of religious signs at work. In both cases, a French and a Belgian one, the headscarf was the bone of contention. The CJEU finally issued a joint judgment this tuesday.

Two stories, one common issue

The Belgian Samira Achbita did not wear a headscarf in 2003 when she started to work as a receptionist for the security company G4S. In 2006, she declared to her employer that she intended to start wearing it… She was then dismissed.

As for the French Asma Bougnaoui, she started working as a design engineer for the IT consultancy firm Micropole in 2008. At this time, she already had a headscarf on. One day, a customer of the company complained about that. This complaint was transmitted by the company to Mrs Bougnaoui, who chose to reject it and refused to remove her headscarf… She was also dismissed.

National Courts from Belgium and France have asked the ECJ to give a ruling on these cases. Though the stories slightly differ, the main issue was to know if a company was justified to dismiss an employee for wearing a headscarf or if this constituted a case of discrimination.

The Court’s decision

For EU’s highest Court, forbidding headscarf on the workplace does not constitute a direct discriminatory act as long as the internal rule of the company proscribes any visible political, philosophical or religious sign and if this policy is justified by an essential occupational requirement:

“An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination. However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer’s services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination”.

Hence, the Court stated in favor of the company in the Belgian case, arguing that the company was following its genuine policy of “image neutrality”. As for the French case however, the Court stated that the complainant had indeed been discriminated against, since the demand to remove the headscarf only followed the complaint from a customer and not a consistent policy of neutrality at work.

What are the implications of this ruling?

Right wing and far right personalities welcome this ruling as a victory, since this now allows companies to ban the headscarf in the workplace, as we can see for instance from Gilbert Collard’s tweet , a French MP working for Marine le Pen : “Even the CJEU votes for Marine”. However, one must remember that this long awaited judgment also demands the prohibiting of religious signs to be stated and justified by a consistent internal rule of the company. The prohibition of religious signs is thus limited and must happen only under certain specific conditions :

“Such indirect discrimination may be objectively justified by a legitimate aim, such as the pursuit by the employer, in its relations with its customers, of a policy of political, philosophical and religious neutrality, provided that the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary”.

The diverging views on the ruling of the CJEU 

For the supporters of the ruling, the issue of religious signs at work needed to be clarified and employers and human resources now have a clearer frame to deal with religious signs at work. In its ruling, the Court judged in favor of the company when a neutral image was part of its objective “identity”, but in favor of the complainant when the demand to remove the headscarf was the result of a subjective process, not connected to an essential occupational requirement.

However, for the critics of this ruling, the CJEU now opens the way to the implementation of more restrictive internal rules in private companies. It gives the latter more power to decide on their employees’ outfit, on the subjective basis of the “image” of the company. Also, and even though the ruling does not specifically concern Muslims, it seems to endorse a general European tendency to target Muslim believers’ visibility in the public space and may de facto contribute to exclude them from the job market.

By Farida Belkacem

Sources :

http://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-03/cp170030en.pdf

A Closer Look at Brussels Offers a More Nuanced View of Radicalization

BRUSSELS — Around the world, this city of great, if often ramshackle, charm has become Exhibit A in the case against immigration, particularly when it involves large numbers of Muslims.

Donald J. Trump called the Belgian capital “a hellhole,” while Lubomir Zaoralek, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, recently cited the city to explain why his and other Eastern European countries had steadfastly resisted a plan by the European Union to spread Syrian and other Muslim refugees around the Continent under a quota system.

“All the people in the Czech Republic and in other countries see what happened in Molenbeek,” he told a security conference in Slovakia over the weekend, referring to the Brussels borough where many of those involved in the attacks in Paris on Nov. 13 and in Brussels on March 22 grew up.

A closer look at what has happened in Molenbeek and other heavily immigrant parts of Brussels, however, provides a far more nuanced picture than just a generation of badly integrated young Muslim immigrants running amok. In some ways, it debunks the view that Islam is a one-size-fits-all faith that fuels terrorism.

It is true that all those so far identified in connection with the Paris and Brussels carnage were young Muslims from immigrant families. But a more significant marker than their faith was their shared origin in North Africa, especially Morocco. None was from Brussels’ large community of Turks, who share the same religion and the same discrimination, as well as other hardships that are often cited as a root cause of jihadist rage against the West.

Brussels first became a magnet for Muslim immigrants in the 1960s, when the Belgian government eagerly invited workers from Morocco and Turkey to move to Belgium to take jobs in factories and mines. The two countries were regarded as generally pro-Western and full of poor and hard-working people eager for jobs in Europe, unlike many developing nations that at the time were frothing with rage at European colonialism and racked by conflict.

“You wish to come and work in Belgium? We Belgians are happy that you are coming to bring to our country the support of your strength and your intelligence,” read a message from the minister of labor posted at Belgium’s embassy and consulates in Morocco in 1964. Similar notices went up a year later in Turkey.

Together, Belgians of Moroccan and Turkish origin today account for the vast majority of the capital city’s Muslim population, and both groups are heir to a fairly relaxed form of Islam that has none of the reactionary dogmatism of Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states.

So how was it that some Moroccans became so angry, alienated and, in some cases, radicalized? “There is a malaise within the community of Moroccan origin,” the mayor of Molenbeek, Françoise Schepmans, said, dismissing arguments that terrorism is a byproduct of religious faith.

Left-wing politicians and community leaders, she said, had missed and amplified the trouble brewing in Molenbeek by treating young Belgian-Moroccans as victims who had no chance of succeeding. “There is a strong sentiment of victimhood,” she said, noting that “Turks have also endured discrimination but there is a force in their community.”

Much of this force comes from the Turkish state, which controls many of the mosques attended by Belgian-Turks and keeps a close eye on potentially wayward elements in the community through a well-established network of local leaders and imams who are trained in Turkey and then sent to Belgium at the government’s expense.

At a Turkish mosque in Molenbeek run by Diyanet, Turkey’s state-controlled religious affairs agency, the imam, who speaks only Turkish, expressed revulsion at the March attacks in Brussels and said that he and his worshipers never tolerate extremist views. He stressed that his congregants respect and follow the law.

Worshipers at a nearby Moroccan mosque angrily shooed away reporters, accusing them of fanning “Islamophobia” and stigmatizing their neighborhood as a haven of jihadists.

In contrast to Belgium’s Turks, the Moroccan community is far more divided and resistant to authority, in part because many of the early immigrants came from the Rif, a rebellious Berber-speaking region often at odds with the ruling monarchy in Morocco. “When emigration to Europe started, the king was happy to get rid of these people,” said Bachir M’Rabet, a youth worker of Moroccan descent in Molenbeek.

Another source of anger in his community, he added, is that many Turks often speak poor French and no Dutch, Belgium’s two main languages, and cling to their Turkish identity, while most Moroccans speak fluent French and aspire to be accepted fully as Belgians. This, he said, means that many Moroccans feel discrimination more acutely and, at least in the case of young men on the margins, tend to view even minor slights as proof that the entire system is against them.

Philippe Moureaux, who served for two decades as Molenbeek’s mayor, described this as “the paradox of integration.” A less-integrated Turkish community has resisted the promise of redemption through jihad offered by radical zealots. Yet, a Moroccan community that is more at home in French-speaking Brussels has seen some of its young fall prey to recruiters like Khalid Zerkani, a Moroccan-born petty criminal who became the Islamic State’s point man in Molenbeek.

“The Turks suffer much less from an identity crisis,” Mr. Moureaux said. “They are proud to be Turks and are much less tempted by extremism.”

Suspicion of and hostility toward authority, particularly the police force, run so deep among some North African immigrants in Molenbeek that when the police mobilized in the area this month to prevent a group of anti-immigrant right-wing hooligans from staging a rally, local youths, mostly young men of Moroccan descent, began hurling abuse and objects at the police.

Molenbeek immigrants of Turkish or other backgrounds generally have a less hostile view of the police. A Turkish shopkeeper who runs a general store near the police station said he feared not the police but aggressive North African youths who accuse him of being a bad Muslim because he sells alcohol. He noted that the youths steal, which is also forbidden.

Emir Kir, the Belgian-Turkish mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, a heavily immigrant Brussels borough that is worse off economically than Molenbeek, said the only Turk he knew about who had tried to go to Syria was a young man who had fallen in love with a girl of Moroccan descent. He got as far as Istanbul before being sent back. “This was a love affair, not an act of extremism,” he said.

Investigations into Dutch Moroccan Criminal Traffic

July 31, 2014

Hundreds of Dutch Moroccan youths are reported to be involved in a string of robberies and at least six gangland killings in the Netherlands and Belgium, according to Volkskrant newspaper, which bases its claims on police investigations into the killings. According to the reports, robberies occur in the Netherlands and then the perpetrators travel to Morocco, which does not deport its nationals.

Dutch public prosecution has an agreement with the Moroccan authorities to facilitate prosecution of those involved in the Netherlands under Moroccan law.  The agreement was signed in 2012 under the responsibilities of the justice ministry. Last week, Hamza B, suspected of a double shooting in Amsterdam in December 2012, became the first to go on trial in Morocco under the new agreement.

Update: Coverage of Dutch Citizens’ Traveling to Fight in Syria

July 7, 2014

The head of the Hague-based International Centre for Counter-Terrorism has recommended that the Dutch security service provide more information to local authorities and civil servants, increasing transparency to build trust within families and with authorities. He discourages the use of “tough talk” from politicians and families for its potential to intensify matters. The recommendations come as mayors of eight Dutch cities and three Belgian cities meet with the Dutch counter-terrorism service to discuss how to deal with citizens returning from Syria.

Also in the news, the Mayor of the Hague, Jozias van Aartsen, announced that seven people from the city have been killed in Syria. 33 people have travelled to Syria from the city so far: of them six have returned, four have been arrested, three minors have been prevented from travel and three passports have been confiscated.

And the Volkskrant has updated coverage on the 15 year old girl from the Netherlands who was stopped in Germany last month on her way to Syria, reporting she was one of four or five minors from the country planning to make the trip together. She is currently being questioned – police spokesman Thomas Aling notes, “She is not in a cell and she is not a suspect. She is a witness and has been given a lawyer via the child protection council.”

French imams gather at the Jewish museum in Brussels

June 9, 2014

On Monday, June 9, French imams gathered alongside members of the Belgian Association Against Anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. The ceremony was held in order to commemorate those killed in the May 24 shooting in which Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche shot four people, three of whom were killed. The gathering included a prayer during which leaders of both the Muslim and Jewish communities joined hands before a moment of silence, followed by a candle lighting ceremony to honor the victims.

Hassen Chalghoumi, the “imam of Drancy,” was present at the ceremony. Chalghoumi is known for his fierce opposition to radical Islam and its violence, his denunciation of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and his close ties with France’s Jewish community. In his speech he asserted that “The Muslim majority must end its silence and state that we don’t have anything to do with this type of individual. I also urge parents to engage in dialogue with young people. If I am here, it is to demonstrate that the Muslim community supports the bereaved families. Because we are all victims. One cannot associate Islam with this mentally ill individual. He himself chose this path.” In an effort to prevent the influence of imams trained in countries outside of Europe, Chalghoumi emphasized the need for a “European Islam.”

Writer Marek Halter of the Jewish community also spoke. “It is important to reconcile religions and to remember that those who kill are not part of the majority, otherwise we all would have been killed,” said Halter. The initiative of French imams has touched the Jewish community in Brussels, especially the museum’s president Philippe Blondin: “It’s…a magnificent gesture of openness. I welcome them with great emotion.”

Following the shooting the European Union pledged to combat the “jihadist threat.” It has prepared a series of measures to identify young Europeans who have left to fight in Syria in order to prevent them from committing violent acts when they return to Europe.

Belgian Court of Appeals Jails Dutch Moroccan Men

January 9, 2014

 

A Belgian appeal court has found three men from Amsterdam, of Moroccan origin, guilty of membership in a terrorist organization. They were said to have collected money and recruited fighters for Chechnya, though charges of conspiring to launch a terrorist attack in Belgium were dropped.

The men deny any involvement in terrorism. One is a former youth worker in Amsterdam West and was a well respected community figure. The men were arrested in 2010 and deported to Belgium in 2011, where they were among 14 suspects involved in the appeal trial. The lower court had found the men not guilty.

 

Dutch News: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/01/belgian_appeal_court_jails_ams.php

Collective makes appeal to Muslim shop owners during Ramadan

RTBF

11.07.2013

Egalite, sans guillements (Equality without quotation marks), a social collective, has decided to make an appeal to Muslim show owners to offer cheaper aliments to socioeconomically weak Muslims during Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is traditionally coined by high expenditures for festive iftar meals following the breaking of the day-long fast after sunset. A Muslim family in Belgium spends in average 60 to 70 Euro for one iftar meal.  A significant amount of Belgian Muslims are, however, unable to afford such expensive meals during Ramadan.

Egalite, sans guillements argues that Ramadan is the month of sharing and conviviality, thus shop owners should in this tradition enable all Muslims to participate in the iftar celebrations. Due to a sharp rise in earnings during Ramadan, in average three times more halal products are sold during the month, shop owners should be able to still make profits whilst making concessions to help fiscally restraint Muslim families.

Media bias towards reporting Islam

rapport_religions_2012_orela_ulb11.06.2013

According to the The Observatory of Religions and Secularism’s (Orela) 2012 report, Islam continues to be discussed in specific and reductive ways in Belgium’s media. Events that are in any way related to Islam or Muslims are reported in the media in ways that “serve as a starting point for an ongoing debate on Muslim integration in Belgian society”. Any debate on Islam in the country’s media continues to include a discussion about the “compatibility of this cult with secularism “. According to Orela, Islam becomes in Belgium media a political but also sociological and economic issue, which serves to alienate Islam and Muslim communities from the country’s mainstream.

rapport_religions_2012_orela_ulb