Sharia4Belgium under the watch

Le Monde

11.05.2013

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.

Antwerp’s new mayor expresses views on Islam

14 January 2013

 

Following a public chat on the intern site of Gazet Van Antwerpen, Bart De Wever, the city’s new mayorresponded toa question on his views on Muslim residents that he does not consider Islam to be a problem. The presence of Islam in the community is for him no different to the presence of any other religious community in Antwerp. He states that Muslims have their place in the city.

 

Simultaneously he denounced fundamentalism as a problem but generalized it to be an issue no matter where its source is to be traced.

Update: Sharia4Holland Member Arrested in Amsterdam

May 29, 2012

 

Following statements last week from a member of the Sharia4Holland threatening politician Geert Wilders, the Freedom Party called for a ban on the organization. Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten stated that the organization posed a violent risk in the country.

Though a ban is impossible as the organization is not a legal entity, the public prosecution as well as police began an investigation into Sharia4Holland, subsequently arresting the spokesman responsible for last week’s comments, a 29 year old man.

Reports also note that the leader of Sharia4UK was also present at the press conference, and spoke briefly at the gathering, but did not make controversial comments.

Sharia4Holland is an offshoot of Sharia4Belgium. Both call for the establishment of a caliphate in their respective countries as well as the introduction of sharia law. Sharia4Belgium publicly condemns homosexuality, and established a sharia mediation court in Antwerp earlier this year.

The Dutch branch is considerably less established than the Belgian, with estimations of some one dozen members. Sharia4Belgium is headed by Fouad Abu Imran, whose slated appearance in Amsterdam generated the events leading to this week’s arrest.

 

Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities

The Open Society Institute Muslims in Europe report series constitutes the comparative analysis of data from 11 cities in seven European countries. It points out common trends and offers recommendations at the local, national, and international levels, including to the European Union and to international organizations. While not representative of the situation of all Muslims in these cities, this report does capture a snapshot of the experiences of Muslim communities in select neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester and Waltham Forest–London, Marseille and Paris, and Stockholm.

This body of work comes in response to major trends with regards to Muslims living in Europe: whether citizens or migrants, native born or newly-arrived, Muslims are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges, namely how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.

Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities, by Open Society Institute

The Open Society Institute Muslims in Europe report series constitutes the comparative analysis of data from 11 cities in seven European countries. It points out common trends and offers recommendations at the local, national, and international levels, including to the European Union and to international organizations. While not representative of the situation of all Muslims in these cities, this report does capture a snapshot of the experiences of Muslim communities in select neighborhoods in Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Antwerp, Berlin and Hamburg, Copenhagen, Leicester and Waltham Forest–London, Marseille and Paris, and Stockholm.

This body of work comes in response to major trends with regards to Muslims living in Europe: whether citizens or migrants, native born or newly-arrived, Muslims are a growing and varied population that presents Europe with one of its greatest challenges, namely how to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all in a climate of rapidly expanding diversity.

Belgian Schools Ban the Hijab

Dutch-language public schools in Belgium will ban the wearing of hijab in classes. The ban will affect 700 schools in the northern region of Flanders, including some in Brussels. School officials argue that the ban was taken to guarantee equal treatment of all pupils within the school grounds.

Most schools in Flanders are Catholic and run by municipalities. Schools in Flanders that are financed by other Belgian communities are not bound by the ban.

The state council has rejected the demand of a pupil from the Royal Athenaeum School in Antwerp looking to suspend the ban on wearing religious symbols, especially the Muslim headscarf. The issue of the legality of the ban has never been defined by the Supreme Court, the student having waited too long to contest the new school rule now. The deadline for appeals has already been reached.

Belgian Council of State Says that Headscarf Ban is Illegal

A Belgian court is due to rule next week on a ban on the Muslim headscarf at two schools in Dutch-speaking Flanders, an issue that has led to a death threat for one school principal and graffiti sprayed on walls. The schools in Antwerp and nearby Hoboken introduced the ban at the start of the school year last week, arguing that Muslim girls were being pressured to wear headscarves by their families and peers.

Angry pupils have staged protests outside the school and one girl filed a complaint with the Belgian Council of State to contest the ban. The court will rule on the matter next week and one of its chief advocates has already advised it to overturn the ban. The advocate’s advice is followed in 90 percent of cases.

“The advocate said that such a ban is not lawful, and that only the umbrella organization of state schools can decide on whether or not to introduce such a measure,” a court spokesman said.

Islam in Europe

Le Figaro

Reuters

Belgian School Term Begins With Protests Over Veil Ban

Dozens of protesters were at schools in Antwerp where authorities have banned girls from wearing the Muslim veil. Approximately 60 people turned up for the start of the school year outside the gates of the Athenee Royal of Antwerp school, where most students are Muslims, carrying banners calling for freedom of choice.

Another 70 protesters assembled at the Hoboken secondary school, also in Antwerp. “This ban is against the freedom of religion and violates the right to an education for young Muslims”, said Samira Azabar, one of the protest organizers.

After the two schools decided on the ban in June an imam in Antwerp called on all Muslim parents not to send their children back to school for the new academic year. Athenee head mistress Karin Heremans said that so far a dozen students decided not to return to school.

The Belgian state is “neutral” rather than secular, leaving the decision on banning or allowing veils to school authorities.

Muslims protest Belgian school ban on veil

About a hundred people gathered in Antwerp Sunday to protest a ban on veils imposed over the weekend at the only remaining high school in Belgium that permitted them, according to press reports over the weekend. High schools in Antwerp and Hoboken announced over the weekend they intended to, follow in the footsteps of other Belgian schools and prohibit Muslims from wearing the veil starting with the next academic term. The school said the ban refers to all religious and political symbols. The protesters held placards bearing slogans like “Freedom for all, except us” and “Democracy not discrimination,” according to a local TV station. It is expected affect about 50 percent of the school’s female students according to Nordin al-Taweel, former president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, the official national organization of Muslim Belgians, told the London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat. School administrators, however, said the number of veiled girls in the school did not exceed five and that they would have reconsidered the matter if it affected more people.

New poll reveals that “Belgians discriminate too much, too often” against Turkish and North African minorities

According to a survey recently revealed by the European Fundamental Rights Agency, 75 percent of Turkish or North African origin feel the are discriminated against too much and too often. Also of note, is that 80% of those surveyed said that they did not go to the police when the were victims of a racist incident, citing that such action is largely “pointless.” These statistics essentially reveal that there are far more crimes based on racism, than reflected in the official statistics, when taking into account those incidents that go unreported. More than 1,000 people living in Brussels and Antwerp were interviewed in the survey.