Grand Mosque: Saudi authorities understand Belgian intention

Thursday, 07 December 2017 17:22
Belgium is a step closer to ending the control by Saudi Arabia over the Grand Mosque du Cinquantenaire. Belgium is a step closer to ending the control by Saudi Arabia over the Grand Mosque du Cinquantenaire. © Belga
The Saudi authorities are showing understanding regarding Belgium’s announcement to break the concession provided, in respect of the management of the Grand Mosque du Cinquantenaire.
This emerged on Wednesday during a parliamentary commission hearing with the FPS President of Foreign Affairs, Dirk Achten.

For several months, the role played by Saudi Arabia on the international stage, in particular with the rapid development of Islam, has been called into question in Belgium. The federal parliament approved a resolution requesting that the government reconsiders its policy with regard to the Saudi Kingdom. The Investigative Commission for the Terrorist Attacks recommended, for its part, ending the agreement concluded in 1967. This enabled Saudi Arabia to control the Grand Mosque.

An even rarer occurrence, when faced with these developments, was the visit by a high-level Belgian delegation to the Gulf States from November 5th to 8th of this year. It was made up of civil servants within the Foreign Affairs and Justice departments, the Cell for Processing Financial Information (known as “CTIF”) and the Body for Coordinating the Analysis of Terrorist Threats (known as “OCAM”).

Meetings took place in Saudi Arabia, including with representatives from the Muslim World League, on which the mosque depends. In such forums, Belgium’s intention regarding the Grand Mosque was expressed, even though the government has not yet fixed any date for this termination to occur.

Mr Achten explained, “They were fairly understanding. If this association is not complying with Belgian law, it is your right to terminate the tenancy. Sometimes, there was something a little astonishing revealed, that depended very much upon the speakers at a given time.”

In Saudi Arabia, which is in a state of change, the general climate is apparently towards openness and dialogue. Other themes were discussed: human rights, the role of the Salafi movement in violent radicalism, and the transparency of financial flows favouring educational, cultural, charitable or religious initiatives in Belgium.

Discussions will now open with a view to concluding two “memoranda of understanding”, so as to guarantee the transparency of these flows. Belgium also invited Saudi Arabia to the International Conference against the Death Penalty, which will take place in Brussels in 2019.

Oscar Schneider
The Brussels Times
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