Islam in Belgium

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The practise of Islam in Belgium is relatively new, and is mostly observed in the Belgian immigrant communities. It is the largest minority religion in Belgium.

Population

An 2011 estimation by Belgian academic Jan Hertogen shows that more than 900,0001 people have a foreign background from Islamic countries.

An 2008 estimation shows2 that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim, either Sunni, Shia, Alevi, and a small population of Ahmadi. Muslims cover 25.5% of the population of Brussels, 4.0% of Wallonia and 3.9% of Flanders. The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi.

According to estimates released in 2007 by sociologist Jan Hertogen, the largest group of immigrants in Belgium, numbering 264,974, are Moroccans. The Turks are the third-largest group, and the second-largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 159,336. These estimates are criticized by the General Direction of Statistics and Economical Information (former National Institute for Statistics) because he simply added the global number of naturalized people without taking into account those who died or remigrated afterwards3 Other nationalities represented are mostly Arabs, Pakistanis and West Africans. No accurate numbers can be given as religious or ethnic censuses are forbidden in Belgium, and most people with roots in Islamic countries (including Christian Assyrian refugees from Turkey) took the Belgian nationality, their children born in Belgium are more and more born as Belgian citizens and thence do not appear in any statistics.

Moroccan and Turkish immigrants began coming in large numbers to Belgium starting in the 1960s as guest workers. Though the guest-worker program was abolished in 1974, many immigrants stayed and brought their families using family reunification laws. Today the Muslim community continues to grow through marriage migration. More than 60% of Moroccan and Turkish youth marry partners from their home countries.4

Since 2009, Mohamed is the most popular given name in Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium's two largest cities.5

Religious infrastructure

In 1974 Islam was recognized as one of the subsidized religions in Belgium and the Muslim Executive of Belgium was founded in 1996. In 2006, the government gave €6.1 million (US$7.7 million) to Islamic groups.6

According to a 2005 Université Libre de Bruxelles study, about 10% of the Muslim population are "practicing Muslims."6

There are an estimated 3286 - 380 7 mosques in the country.

Denominations

Ahmadiyya

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community established itself in Belgium in c. 1982. The Baitul Islam Mosque is the first mosque in Belgium. The Baitul Salam Mission House is in Dilbeek, a town just outside the capital city of Brussels. There also is the Baitur Raheem Mosque in Hassel.8

Shia

Shia Muslims are concentrated in Brussels. Community relations between Shias and Salafists have at times been tense due to conflict abroad, and in March 2012 turned violent when a Salafist entered a Shia mosque and killed its Imam.9

Issues

According to a 2006 opinion poll 61% of the Belgian population think tensions between Muslims and other communities will increase in the future.10

Headscarf

In December 2004, the Belgian government said it was considering a ban on the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols for civil servants.7

In June 2005 the Antwerp Court of Appeal ruled that it was outside the jurisdiction of the state to determine whether Islam requires women to wear a headscarf and that girls in public schools have the right to do so. However, the school board also has the authority to restrict that right for organizational reasons, or for the good functioning of the school, though it must justify any such restrictions.

At the end of 2005, approximately twenty municipalities had issued a ban on walking the streets completely veiled. In a few cases women were fined €150 (US$190) for ignoring the ban. Under a 1993 executive order, persons in the streets must be identifiable. A veil which does not completely cover the body is however allowed.

Terrorism

Several terror plots in recent years involved fundamentalist Islamists.

On 30 September 2003, a Belgian court convicted 18 men for involvement in a terror cell. Nizar Trabelsi was sentenced to 10 years for plotting a suicide attack against the NATO air base at Kleine Brogel. Tarek Maaroufi, of the Tunisian Combat Group, was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a Brussels-based fake passport ring that supplied fake Belgian passports to the men who assassinated former Afghan Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before the September 11 attacks.

In the week after the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings, Belgian police arrested four members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.

On June 8, 2004, 15 people connected with Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, a main suspect in the Madrid bombings, were arrested in Antwerp and Brussels. A Belgian law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that the arrested men had been in contact with Ahmed, whom Italian police had captured on wiretaps discussing future attacks, and that they may have been headed for missions in Iraq.

In October 2004, a Belgian court sentenced eight Islamic militants to prison terms of up to 5 years for plotting attacks and for links to Al Qaeda. According to prosecutors, Saber Mohammed received three phone calls from senior Al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which he was believed to be forwarding for colleagues.11 Also convicted was Tarek Maaroufi.

On November 9, 2005, Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert to Islam, committed a suicide car bomb attack against a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad.

See also

References

Further reading

External links








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