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.
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.
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.
Following the discovery of some 70 Belgian Muslims to have departed to fight alongside the Syrian rebels, an editorial published by the Belgian newspaper La Libre brings the question of Islamic radicalism in Europe to the forefront. Lamfaluss focuses upon the Belgian urban space as a futile soil for the radicalisation of Muslims but emphasis that only a small number are affected by such influences
According to him, those who are prone to become radicals willing to take upon arms and fight elsewhere are members of Salafist networks who infiltrate mosques and prisons and belong to a generation of people who are neither home in Belgium nor their country of descent, or that of their parents.
7 December 2011
During a public dialogue about a ‘liberal approach to Islam’ held in Amsterdam’s cultural venue de Balie, a group of Belgian Muslims entered the hall and disrupted the program. The debate featured Canadian Muslim activist Irshad Manji and Dutch Green Party parliamentarian Tofik DIbi. During their presentation, a group of about 20 Muslims entered the room shouting ‘ Sharia for Holland’. The group came from Belgium, and AD later reported they represented the Saria4Holland organization. Police were called to the hall after the disruption, during which the disrupters spat and threw eggs at Dibi and Manji. The two panelists remained on stage. Two members of the disrupting group were arrested.
Reactions of Belgian Muslims across Flanders concerning the _Fitna’ film are mixed in the intensity of their criticism and concern. Farid El Machaoud of the League of Muslims in Belgium said: I feel slightly offended by certain scenes and among other things, the fact that certain verses from the Koran were taken out of context. The Federation of Moroccan Organizations, the Union of Turkish Associations, and the Immigrant Youth Work Platform said in a joint statement that the film has everything to do with xenophobia and racism and nothing to do with freedom of speech. Flemish Minister for Integration Marino Keulen supports the right for politicians to make independent films but criticized _Fitna’ as lacking in any kind of nuance.