Belgium: Over 75 mosques waiting for recognition

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In Flanders, more than 75 mosques have applied for recognition about 3 years ago but have been kept waiting as the Muslim Executive “is not cooperating,” said Flemish Minister of Coexistence Bart Somers.

Due to the absence of an effective recognition framework, Flanders has not recognised a single mosque since 2013. Therefore, Somers has prepared a new law with clear conditions for recognition.

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“The latest rule has been implemented for 3 months now. We receive signals from the field that several mosques are waiting to be recognised, but the Muslim Executive does not provide us with the files,” he said in a press release on Monday. “Our Flemish Muslims deserve better, and the Muslim Executive leaves them in the lurch.”

For Somers, this indicates that Federal Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne took the right decision last week when he announced he would repeal the recognition (and the funding) of the Muslim Executive after sustained suspicion of international influence, malfunctioning and radicalism.

Somers stated that “The Flemish Muslims are an essential part of our society. The vast majority of them do not care about foreign interference or a representative body that persists in classifying them on the basis of their countries of origin, even if they are already the third or sometimes even the fourth generation.”

In practice, more than 75 mosques have already applied for recognition before 1 July 2019, but the Muslim Executive has not presented a single file for recognition to the Minister since the new rule came into force.

“Nothing says that all these 75 mosques will now apply for recognition again,” Somers said. “Some files are no longer relevant, and some will have lost interest now that we have stricken the rules. However, several mosques have been waiting for recognition for years, and yet there is no recognition file on my table yet.”

The last time mosque recognition was done was nearly 10 ago.

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Since 2017, no new local faith communities have been recognised due to the absence of a precise recognition framework. The last mosque was recognised in 2013, almost ten years ago. With Somers’ new rule, however, this recognition stop came to an end a quarter ago.

In Belgium, the Federal Government decides which religions are recognised, but the regions are in charge of recognising the local religious communities. Flanders has roughly 1,700 local religious congregations, of which more than 1,580 are Roman Catholic.

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