Six mosques have been officially recognized in northern Belgium; the mosques will receive state subsidies and get their wages from state funds. In Belgium imams only qualify if they can show that they are integrated and can speak Dutch fluently, and are familiar with Flemish society. Starting in 2008, authorities in Flanders will pay 30% of the mosques’ building costs.
Unizo, the Flemish small business association, has called for workers across the European Union to be given access to jobs in the Belgian labor market. Citing a shortage of workers, the association also states that the number of job vacancies in Flanders is twice the number of job seekers. Unizo favors giving illegal immigrants who have integrated into Belgian society the right to legally work in the country.
The king signed a decree granting official recognition to 50 imams working in 43 mosques, recognized by the Wallonia region. The imams will receive their salaries from the state beginning next month, just as Catholic parts do. Five mosques in Brussels, and at least seven in Flanders have yet to receive official recognition.
Political and governmental conflict still divides Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, but the two communities put aside their differences to approve a tough new approach concerning asylum and economic migration. Under the agreement, migrants from outside the EU will only be able to fill jobs if there are not enough EU candidates. Further toughening of income, language, and time requirements were put forth in the agreement.
BRUSSELS – The government of Flanders will officially recognise a total of eight mosques for the first time this autumn. The mosques will then be entitled to receive the same subsidies as other religious institutions. The recognised mosques will be spread over the various provinces and will also be divided among the Arab and Turkish-speaking communities. Minister for Integration Marino Keulen (Open VLD) has discussed this with the Muslim Executive, the representative organisation for Islam in Belgium. It will also take into account recommendations from the provincial governments, municipal governments and the state security service. Not all the recommendations have yet been submitted.
Belgians began voting on Sunday in an election expected to replace Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt with the premier of Flanders who wants more power for his Dutch-speaking region, where 60 percent of Belgians live.Early on Sunday, reflecting Belgium’s firm linguistic divide, it was expected that voters in the country’s francophone and Dutch-speaking communities will elect separate parties that must eventually form a coalition to govern the whole country.Turks with Belgian citizenship also participated in the elections, both as voters and candidates. 36 Turks have been named candidates in the elections on all sides of the political spectrum.
King Albert II voices solidarity with Remmery, company boss facing death threat for defending Amzil’s right to wear a headscarf. BRUSSELS – Belgium’s King Albert II has voiced solidarity with a company boss facing a death threat for defending an employee’s right to wear an Islamic headscarf, in a case gripping the country, officials said Wednesday. The Belgian monarch will grant an audience next month to Rik Remmery, who runs a food processing firm in western Belgium, and his staff member Naima Amzil, the royal palace said. Albert II “is following the case closely and is very impressed by the manager’s decision not to give in to pressure,” said the king’s top aide cited by the Belga news agency. At the end of November Remmery received a letter, signed by a group calling itself “New Free Flanders,” demanding that he sack 31-year-old Amzil if she persisted in wearing a headscarf to work. The letter accused him of being “a bad Belgian who collaborates with Muslims,” and threatened both Remmery and his family. In response Amzil offered to take off her headscarf during working hours, and also said she could resign. But her boss refused both options, and has been backed by a growing wave of support in Belgium’s northern Flanders region, where the anti-immigrant Vlaams Belang group has backing from about a quarter of voters according to polls. One employers’ group has collected 17,000 signatures backing Remmery. “May your calm resolve become symbols of tolerance in Flanders,” said the Unizo bosses’ association. Remmery and Amzil will be received by the Belgian monarch on January 12, the royal office said.
Foreigners living in Belgium have been given the right to vote in the country’s local elections, whatever their nationality. The Belgian Parliament’s approval of the new voting law, marks the end of a long and often bitter debate that once again saw the country divided along linguistic lines. The country’s French speaking political parties carried the vote. Only one party from Dutch-speaking Flanders – the minority Flemish Socialist Party (SP.A) – voted in favour of the planned new rules. It is estimated that around 120 000 people are to contribute from the new regulations.