Halal food for Brussels Transport canteens


Le Soir

After a union led debate upon the introduction of halal food, the Brussels Intercommunal Transport Company’s (STIB) Diversity Committee has accelerated the process after gelatine which contains pork was found in three salads offered at STIB’s canteens. Many of the STIB employees are of Muslim faith and those who support the motion to diversify the food offered by STIB canteens do so by arguing for change in face of shifting demographic structures amongst STIB employees.

Immigrant Citizens Survey: perceptions of the immigrants about integration

23 may 2012



The Immigrant Citizens Survey (ICS) was presented at the headquarters of the European Commission Representation in Spain. The survey was directed from Brussels by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Migration Policy Group, in collaboration with the CIDOB in Spain and the Centre for Sociological Research (CIS). The ICS is the first international survey which reflects the opinion of immigrants on the facilities and difficulties encountered when integrated into the host society.
“The results of the ICS are striking because they show that the vision of immigrants on their situation is more positive than expected,” said Jordi Vaquer, director of CIDOB, during the presentation.
The survey of more than 7,000 immigrants with authorized residence status in 15 cities and in 7 EU countries (Germany, Belgium, Spain, France, Hungary, Italy and Portugal) was done in the late 2011 and reveals what immigrants think on key integration policies. The study focuses on analyzing the perception of immigrants on issues such as residence permits, citizenship, family reunification, labor market, social participation and education, among others.

The main results in Spain reveal both positive aspects of the situation of immigrants in the country and others could be improved. Among the positive aspects are:

– The immigrants say they have found few problems when applying for permanent residence, nationality or family reunification.

– There is less difficulty finding work in the two Spanish cities than in many other European cities like Milan, Brussels and Paris.

– The main issues raised at the time of finding work are the temporary contracts and jobs in the underground economy, but there is a low incidence of discrimination.

– In general, they find little trouble when learn Castilian, compared to the problems that immigrants manifest in other European countries while trying to learn the local/ national language.

– There is a greater intention to vote and to potential electoral inclusion than in countries like Germany or Belgium.

Among the areas for improvement include:

– To the majority of the interviewed immigrants to have a permanent residence did not help them in anything to get employment (worse than in other countries).

– Between one quarter and one third of immigrants are over-qualified for their jobs.

– Working conditions prevent immigrants to improve their training.

– In terms of participation and representation, it should be noted that membership in associations, unions and parties is relatively low in the Spanish cities.

– The majority believe that there is a need to have more members of immigrant origin in national parliaments.

Book: The New Muslim Elites in European Cities

The New Muslim Elites in European Cities: Religion and Active SocialCitizenship Amongst Young Organized Muslims in Brussels and London

Islam in Western Europe ceases to be a religion of immigrants and is beginning to emerge as a religion of European born citizens. As a result of the acts of violence committed by Muslim believers on the continent and elsewhere there has been increased focus on Muslims in Europe, however, very little attention has been paid to the exploration of various dimensions of citizenship of young European Muslims. The book aims to fill this gap by uncovering what the emerging Muslim religious brokers or members of the new Muslim elites mean when they describe themselves as ‘Muslim citizens’ and by exploring relations between Islam and citizenship in two urban/national settings: one in which Muslims are mostly perceived as individuals (Brussels/Belgium) and one in which they are usually viewed as members of religious, ethnic or other social groups (London/Britain). It argues that the shift in the mobilisation of Islam in Europe from a politics of Muslim identity to the politics of Muslim citizenship is closely linked with the development of a civic consciousness among certain segments of the Muslim populations. The book is a must read for all students of European societies and their ‘Islams’.
FROM THE REVIEW of Prof. Jørgen S. Nielsen (Centre for EuropeanIslamic Thought, University of Copenhagen)
The author has carried out a meticulous study of Muslim elites in Brussels and London. The data collected is analyzed in great detail. Besides, the work proves that the writer is very well acquainted with Islamic history and doctrines and social science theories.
There is much good to say about the theoretical parts of the manuscript. I particularly enjoyed the discussion of both the importance of urban environments and the sociological discussions of identity. Both discussions proved that the writer has an in-depth knowledge of these subjects and masters relevant theories so well that new and relevant perspectives are produced.
The analytical parts are well-written and the author does his utmost to tease out every single drop of information available in his interviews. The main contribution of the manuscript lies in its original theoretical framework and its comparative focus. In this respect the author deserves credit for collecting data in two cities in two different countries. The focus on citizenship and its various forms is also valuable and original. I will rank the manuscript within the top 50% of works in the field.
The work is useful both for students and researchers focusing on Muslim minorities in Europe, immigrant populations and minorities, national and transnational identity formations and citizenship in action. The work can also of value to policy makers, politicians and media people, creating a better understanding of the role that younger generations of Muslims in Europe seek to play, what their resources are and where they experience stumbling blocks of integration and fruitful co-existence.

Konrad PĘDZIWIATR is Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at the Tischner European University (Poland). He holds a PhD in Social Science from the Katholieke Universiteit Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium) where he worked as a researcher between 2004-2008. His previous appointments include Department of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Bradford and Institute of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford. His recent publications include ‘The New Muslim Elites in European Cities: Religion and Active Social Citizenship Amongst Young Organized Muslims in Brussels and London’ (2010, VDM) and ‘From the Islam of Immigrants to the Islam of Citizens: Muslims in the Countries of Western Europe’ (2005, 2007, Nomos). He published on different dimensions of the Muslim presence in Europe in ‘European Judaism’ (2008), ‘Social Compass’ (2007, 2011) and the ‘ISIM Newsletter’ (2006). He is editor of the biggest web portal in Poland devoted to the Middle Eastern and Muslim issues www.Arabia.pl and the National Coordinator of the EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel).

ADDRESS: Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, TischnerEuropean University, ul. Westerplatte 11, 31-033 Kraków, Poland.[email: k.pedziwiatr@gmail.com]


DEBATE: “European Muslims: Model Citizens or Forever Foreign?” on Wednesday, November 10th at the British Council and European Policy Centre, Brussels

A debate organised by the British Council in collaboration with the European Policy Centre and the European Muslim Network.

10 November 2010, European Parliament, Brussels, Room A5E2, 10:00 to 12:30 (Registration and Coffee from 09:15)

Are western societies becoming too individualistic? Are we more concerned with ourselves than our communities? If good citizenship is defined by giving something back to society, are we all becoming bad citizens?

We hear no end of criticism against European Muslims for having divided loyalties; for failing to integrate and for living in closed communities with traditional values, out of tune with ‘our’ Western values.

But perhaps Muslims in Europe are actually the model of good citizenship, with stronger family ties, increasing political participation, more respect for their community and more engagement in voluntary organisations..…

In this open and frank debate, we discuss what it takes to be a good ‘European citizen’. We ask whether strong communities are a hindrance to proper integration; whether citizenship is more than just nationality; and whether hyphenated citizenship should be embraced or challenged.

Participants include

Sajjad Karim, Conservative Member of the European Parliament, Host of the Debate
Belinda Pyke, Director for Equality between Men/Women, Action against discrimination, European Commission
Saad Amrani, Police Commissioner in charge of foreign community and international issues, Brussels city
Tareq Oubrou, Imam, Mosque of Bordeaux
Sophie Heine, Research Fellow, Université Libre de Bruxelles

This debate will be moderated by Shada Islam, from the European Policy Centre.

If you would like to register, please contact us at osedebate@britishcouncil.be.

If you require a pass for the European Parliament, please RSVP before 29th October, including your full name, date of birth and place of residence.


Belgium – Parliamentarians with Headscarves

26-year-old Mahinur Özdemir is the first woman to enter a parliament in Europe with a headscarf. The daughter of a Turkish green grocer in Brussels immigrant quarter Schaarbeek,she is the youngest delegate in Brussels new regional parliament.Not only in Belgium,the headscarf has fueled discussion about religious symbols in public,about tolerance,and about integration policies. A portrait of a young woman who was born in Belgium and now sees herself as a representative of a new,self-confident Belgian Muslim immigrant generation.

European Rabbis Boycott Interfaith Event With Muslim Brotherhood

The European rabbinical umbrella organization “Conference of European Rabbis” (CER) boycotted an interfaith conference in Belgium after it was determined that Muslim delegates included alleged members of the Muslim brotherhood movement. The meeting, co-hosted by the European commission and the European Parliament, took place in Brussels on Monday of this week. The interfaith meeting was intended to bring together four religious leaders from each participating faith community. In a statement explaining the decision not to attend the meeting, the executive director of the CER said: “We do not consider it appropriate for organizations such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, or individuals who made or endorsed anti-Semitic statements and who are clearly linked to radical Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood to be present.” These invitees, according to the CER, are “extremists who are not representative of the vast majority of Europe’s Muslim citizens.” The statement noted that the interfaith initiative was a positive one, but that it was undermined by the inclusion of some persons who are more interested in divisiveness than dialogue. The European Commission said that the decision was regrettable, as president Jose Manuel Barroso stated: “This meeting aims to foster dialogue and build on common ground, regarding the importance of this economic and financial crisis and we believe it is important to contribute. …It is time for unity and not for isolation on such an important topic.”

Italy accuses two of leading roles in al Qaeda training

Italian prosecutors have accused two men, arrested last year for link to human trafficking, of being leading al Qaeda figures in Europe and involved in training militants for suicide attacks. Police in the southern Italian city of Bari said that the two men, identified as Syrian imam Bassam Ayachi and French computer engineer Raphael Gendron, played leadings roles in “communication, transmission, and propaganda” for al Qaeda. The two men were arrested in November 2008 on suspicion of trying to smuggle five illegal immigrants into Italy. However, evidence in later searches have turned up a will of a would-be suicide attacker, detailing the compensation to his family after his death. In addition, tapped conversations between the two men had reference to an attack on Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport. The two men are also suspected to have close tied to a Brussels-based al Qaeda recruiting network. A senior Belgian intelligence source said that Ayachi and Gendron were known to provide ideological support for members of the alleged Brussels terrorism network, but at this time were not suspected of having played a direct role in recruiting young European Muslims for training in Pakistan. However, communication lines and inter-country ties are being closely examined.

This recent news story is a follow-up to prior arrests an issues, and emphasizes namely two major points – that terror and security investigations are often in flux and change as information is found, and national security agencies share information, and also that much like the above story, involves deeply complicated cooperation across different national interests. Who to prosecute, how, where, and according to whose legal system becomes an important consideration for all parties involved, with the added component of an ever-evolving case.

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.

Muslims and city politics: When town halls turn to Mecca

In cities all over Europe, mayors are fretting about the coming religious festivities. No, not just Christmas lights. They want to ensure hygiene and order in the slaughter of sheep for the feast of Eid al-Adha on December 8th. This remembers the readiness of Abraham—the patriarch revered by all three monotheistic faiths—to sacrifice his son. Muslims often sacrifice a lamb, whose meat is shared with family members and the poor.

In the Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, where the dominant culture is that of Morocco, a circular from the district authorities reminds residents not to kill animals at home. It invites them to a “temporary abattoir” that will function for 48 hours in a council garage. Molenbeek is one of four areas of Brussels which have set up makeshift slaughterhouses, each with a capacity of at least 500 sheep. In practice, home killing is hard to stop, despite vows by the city authorities to prosecute offenders.

In places like Molenbeek, a few miles away from the European Union’s main institutions, talk of the continent’s transformation into Eurabia doesn’t sound absurd. Although Muslims make up less than 4% of the EU’s total population, their concentration in urban areas is altering the scene in some European cities.

In some of these places bad relations between Muslims, non-Muslims and the authorities are creating political opportunities for the far right. In east London, for example, arguments are raging over plans for a “mega-mosque” near the site of the 2012 Olympics. In rough parts of northern Paris, there are fights between Muslims and Jews. In Italian cities, where Muslims are numerous but not many can vote, Catholics and secularists have united to stop the erection of mosques.

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Brussels Muslims Establish ‘No-Go’ Areas

Several neighborhoods in Brussels have made certain areas “no go zones” for police officers. These areas are places that cannot be patrolled by police without being pelted by rocks, attacked, or having their police vehicles damaged. These neighborhoods contain a mostly immigrant origin, Muslim population, and police report that the such instances are mostly carried out by young, mostly Muslim young people. These young people have accused the Belgian police with racism, which appears to fuel the cycle.

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