The 21-year-old Muslim woman who was attacked by two men in what is believed to be a racist attack was in her fourth month of pregnancy and suffered a miscarriage following the attack. The woman was attacked on Thursday by two men, who were reported to have ripped off her hijab in Argenteuil, Val-d’Oise, before kicking her in the hip. The woman’s husband reported that the women lost her baby on Monday.
The attack follows another attack on a veiled Muslim woman three weeks ago and days after clashes erupted between Muslim residents and the police after a veiled woman was arrested by the authorities. The local Muslim community reported to be angered and concerned about the rise of Islamophobia in recent weeks. Hundreds of people gathered in a protest condemning the attacks and the French state’s reluctant response to it. Following the family’s loss, the Coalition against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI) expressed its “condolences and solidarity with the family”. The group demands that the “wave of attacks and Islamophobic behaviour requires a strong and uncompromising response from the French Republic, which must express its solidarity with all victims and not just those who the Minister of Internal Affairs deems worthy to empathize with”. The CRI and the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) have denounced on a meeting at the city of hall of Argenteuil the French authority’s lack of consideration of Islamophobic attacks and sympathy shown to its victims. As a response, the adjunct director of cabinet to the French Minister of Internal Affairs, Manuel Valls, sent out letters to both victims and received the first of the two in the Ministry in Paris.
Around 5000 of Belgium’s prison population, 45% of the overall number of inmates in the country, are of Muslim faith. This has, as previously reported, caused a number of issues in regards to prison dietary rules, female guard presence, prayer rooms. The national umbrella organization of the Belgium Muslims (Executif des Musulmans de Belgique) has called upon the state to provide facilities to practice and manage the faith in prisons in order to protect it from being taken over by radical sections.
Brussels City Hall fired a recent Belgium convert to Islam for having refused to shake the hand of his female supervisor. When being interrogated during an inquiry on the case, the accused stated ‘to be forbidden to touch women’ according to his religion. The man was fired on the grounds of contradicting the notion of neutrality and civility at workplace.
The management board of the Louvain Central prison in Louvain decided to open the first Islamic prayer room within a prison in Belgium. The decision mirrors the growing demand of incarcerated Muslims for prayer space. The mosque should be able to house 100 devotees. The prison board announced to not have spent any cent for the mosque, instead, the money was collected by the Muslim prisoners to furnish the room themselves.
The recent wave of Belgian Muslims departing to fight in Syria has led to a number of police operations against the networks who are behind the recruitment drive. One organisation has particularly come under scrutiny: Sharia4Belgium, an organisation founded in 2010 in Antwerp, which is part of the international Salafi network Sharia4, founded in the UK two years before. Although the organisation, which has been classified by General Attorney’s Office of Antwerp as terroristic, has been dissolved in October last year, it remains to be operative in the country. Europol has previously identified the organisation as one of the largest networks to enrol Belgian Muslims to send them to fight in Syria. 33 of the 80-300 Belgian Muslims who have left the country to join the Syrian revolutionaries are accordingly believed to have been recruited by Sharia4Belgium. Sharia4Belgium is the local branch of the international organisation, which has outlets in the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, the US, India and elsewhere, advocating for the imposition of Islamic law around the globe. The organisation is said to be close to the Al-Qaida network. Two of its members, amongst them their Belgian public spokesperson, are currently under investigative custody. One of them faces a 18 months prison term.
A recent article published by the French daily, Le Monde, interviewed the families of four Belgian Muslims who have left Europe to join the Syrian revolutionaries in their fight to overthrow the current Syrian regime under Dictator Bashir Al-Assad. The article is released in the wake of a nationwide soul searching in regards to the wave of young Belgian Muslims, numbered to be around 80 to 300, who have joined the forces of the revolutionaries. These events have, however, not been isolated, but came into the spotlight all over Europe in the recent weeks and months.
In its investigative journalistic piece, the newspaper attempts to uncover the reasons for their leaving and what their departure means for Belgium as a multicultural country as a whole and its large Muslim citizenry specifically.
Popular Belgian weather reporter, Luc Trellemans, of the national broadcaster RTL Belgium publically apologized to the country’s Muslim community after having expressed Islamophobic views on his Facebook page.
The reporter accused Muslims of ‘mocking our (Belgian) customs’ on his Facebook wall and was met, as a result, with a torrent of outrage in social media circles. His public apology was followed by a public message of the broadcaster RTL, distancing itself from the comments and announcing the immediate suspension of the weather reporter.
Speaking to the European Parliament’s home affairs committee, the EU’s anti-terror chief Gilles de Kerchove said the departure of hundreds of young Europeans to fight in Syria poses “a serious threat” to Europe’s security.
A report released early this month by King’s College London said up to 600 people from 14 countries, including Austria, Britain, Germany, Spain and Sweden had taken part in the Syria conflict since it began in March 2011. The largest contingent was from Britain but based on population, the figures for Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands were the most significant, with around 200 between them.
Belgian special police units conducted a nationwide operation against radical Muslim networks in Brussels, Anvers and Vivorde. The police actions follow a security plan to clamp down on a number of Belgian Muslims departing to join the Syrian revolution. Amongst those who were arrested was a young Belgian who was hospitalized after being injured from fighting in Syria.
According to the Belgian government, 60 to 80 young Belgians have so far joined the ranks of the Syrian revolutionaries. Most recently, two 16 year old grammar school students from Brussels are feared to have departed to fight in Syria.
For the first time a Muslim organisation condemned the instrumentalisation of Islam to recruit voluntary fighters from Belgium for the civil-war in Syria. Forum Musulmans et Société (FMS) has expressed its disagreement with attempts to religify the war in Syria, which the organisation considers to be a war between Syrians and not religious fractions. According to them, both state and revolutionaries are Muslims who fight to defend their land and not their religion. The condemnation follows the revelation of a number of cases of Belgian Muslims who have departed to join the revolutionary forces in Syria.
FMS appeals to imams and Muslims in Belgium to denounce the departure of young Belgian Muslims to fight in Syria.