Op-Ed: Brussel's pact with Saudi Arabia gave the world Molenbeekistan
Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly...
“Bruxellistan”. “Molenbeekistan”. “Belgistan”. We cannot even count the definitions to indicate the transformation of Belgium into the base of the massacres in Paris and now targeted itself by Jihad at Brussels’ airport and metro.
To use the title of the book by Felice Dassetto, a sociologist at the Catholic University of Leuven, it is “L’iris et le croissant” (iris, the symbol of Brussels, and the Islamic crescent, together).
How did Molenbeek, the “Little Manchester” that the former Socialist mayor Philippe Moureaux proudly called a “socio-multicultural laboratory”, become the headquarters of the European jihad from Atocha to the Bataclan. How did it become the “Carrefour de l’islamisme”, the crossroads of Islamist hatred in Europe, as defined by Libération?
“It was a decision of the Belgian King Baudouin”, said Michael Privot, a famous Belgian expert on terrorism and director of Enar, the European Network Against Racism, in our conversation right after the Brussels bombing. “Islam was recognized officially in Belgium in 1974, by the former King Baudouin, who had developed good ties with the royal family of Saudi Arabia (SA). This recognition was coming in opportunely as it was in the midst of the oil crisis and Belgium was hoping that this recognition would be taken as a sign of good will and openness towards SA, therefore securing oil supply for Belgium."
"In 1974, Muslims living in Belgium were mostly 1st generation coal and other industry workers from Morocco and Turkey who were slowly starting to get organized in order to open prayer spaces and small mosques. There was no real religious authority operating in Belgium and no real mosque either. As a follow up of this recognition, Belgium offered the ‘Pavillon du Cinquantenaire’, 200 meters away from Schuman Place and the EU headquarters, to Saudi Arabia, which transformed it into ‘the Great Mosque of the Cinquantenaire’, and filled the void in terms of religious authority to become the de facto Islamic authority in Belgium.”
It kept a crucial leadership role until the end of the nineties, the time that a formal authority recognized by the Belgian authorities (the Executive of Muslims in Belgium, EMB) was established in its place. “However, this formal authority can only deal with the material aspect of the Islamic cult (recognition of mosques, of imams, chaplains...) and not with the theological content of it. Therefore, this is a space that retained the occupation of the 'Great Mosque of the Cinquantenaire' under Saudi rule (its director is an ambassador of SA)”.
"If in the meantime, Morocco and Turkey have organized themselves strongly to provide their respective diasporas with an Islam much like at home, whereas Turkey was able to keep a better hand on a moderately conservative form of Islam through heavy state control of the religious authorities and the content of their messages at home and abroad, and therefore not really open a door to the Wahhabi ideology - we have to acknowledge that this was not the case for the rest of the Arabic speaking world."
“Native Moroccan imams have also been heavily influenced by the Wahhabi or another version of the salafi approach of Islam. Therefore, when in Belgium, there was no real disconnect - apart from nuances - between their own conservative teachings and the ones promoted by the Great Mosque directly under the supervision of SA. This maintained the influence of the Great Mosque, despite the reinforcement of the supervision/control of Moroccan imams by Morocco."
"The impact of SA, through the Great Mosque, has also been very widespread because they’ve been disseminating tons of books for free in all languages to mosques and other Islamic organizations, as well as Qu'rans... And of course, those books, present in any mosque as they have been translated into all languages, were promoting the SA version of islam. This still goes on today. SA has also been offering numerous grants to 2nd and 3rd generation young Muslims willing to go to Medina to learn Islamic sciences (the SA version of course)."
"Today, in Brussels, 95% of the courses offered on Islam for Muslims are operated by young preachers trained in SA. There is a huge demand within Muslim communities to know about their religion, but most of the offer is filled by a very conservative salafi type of Islam sponsored by SA. Other Muslim countries have been unable to offer grants to students on such a scale."
"Finally, the Great Mosque has been in a position to hire a number of young preachers, mostly trained in SA or by people trained there, born here, also knowing their environment well, speaking French and Dutch and able to offer family counseling for youth, who have given hundreds of conferences everywhere in Belgium over the years, and therefore have key impact on the
Saudi Arabia donates a million euro annually to 20 mosques in Mollenbeek for their renovation and maintenance.
understanding of Islam by the new generation, in disconnect with the understanding of their parents”.
There are many Saudi offshoots in Brussels. The Imam Bukhari center coordinates the pro-Saudi cultural activities in Belgium, while the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium (CICB) has become the European headquarters of the World Muslim League. The goal of the CICB is to “strengthen the spiritual life of Muslims living in Belgium”, opening mosques and Koranic schools. But the CICB, for example, advises women to consult only female gynecologists, discourages young Muslims from selling alcohol and recommends that Muslims lower their gaze in the presence of a beautiful woman. CICB sermons call Brussels “capital of the kuffar” (infidels).
The pact with Belgium is part of a larger global project: Bruxellistan? Belgistan? a vision of Islam that is based on the absolute monotheism (tawhid), the prohibition innovations (bid’ah), the rejection of everything that is not Muslim, the excommunication of the “unbelievers” (takfîr) and the armed struggle (jihad).
Saudi Arabia donates a million euro annually to 20 mosques in Mollenbeek for their renovation and maintenance. The Great Mosque of Brussels, a gift of the Belgian king to the Saudis, have trained imams such as Haddach Rachid, one of the most popular Salafi preachers today in Brussels. Haddach explains that Muslim children in Belgium, instead of going to kindergarten, should stay at home until the age of six so as not to be contaminated by a non-Islamic environment. The music? “You’d better read the Koran”. The burqa? “Halal” (permitted). And men must grow beards.
We are paying the consequences of that suicidal blackmail between Belgium and Saudi Arabia. The transformation of the Iris in the Crescent.
Belgium, once famous for the Madonna by Michelangelo in Bruges, now makes headlines for Molenbeek, the operative base for the Islamic holy war against the European everyman.