Belgian Muslim associations which signed the declaration “against radicalism and in favour of citizenship” are to join forces in the coming weeks in order to draw up a joint list of actions to be taken, explains Hajib El Hajjaji (spokesperson for the initiative and vice-president of the Co-operative against Islamophobia in Belgium) on Tuesday. “We must join forces in the fight against radicalism and in particular in order to build an Islam which contributes to society in a positive way,” he says. At the suggestion of the “EmBem” group (Empowering Belgian Muslims), over 50 associations (including the Muslim Executive of Belgium) as well as almost 40 well-known public figures and committed citizens signed a document called “Belgian Muslim consensus against radicalism and in favour of citizenship.” The document aims to promote a “generous” Islam and to identify 4 areas to focus its efforts on: religion, education, fighting against discrimination, emphasis on Muslim contributions in Europe and in Belgium.
“We are shocked by recent events. But the time for accusations is over. Today, we must set our sights higher. We must act together, in synergy,” said Hajib El Hajjaji. “Some associations have met for the first time thanks to this project. This is making us think as well,” he points out.
Possible actions include encouraging imams to speak of tolerance and respect in their Friday prayers, using Muslim scouts and guides groups to empower youths, and encouraging teachers of the Muslim faith to promote Islam’s diversity.
The idea is not to create a new structure, but to use the different associations taking part to put these ideas in place through their own individual vocation.
“Responsibilities are shared. We are not shirking our own responsibilities but are asking policy-makers to help set up an Islam which has a positive input,” adds the spokesperson. Amongst other things, Muslims taking part in the initiative would like to be able to air a regular programme on public television.