NZ mosque attack widely condemned in Belgium, but no extra security measures planned
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    NZ mosque attack widely condemned in Belgium, but no extra security measures planned

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Friday’s attack against two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, has met with widespread condemnation in Belgium, but the country’s Crisis Centre has no immediate plans to beef up security around mosques, a spokesperson said.

    Authorities in France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have already taken additional security measures since the attack, in which an Australian gunman killed 49 people while they were at prayer and wounded about 20 others.

    “The crisis centre is monitoring the situation with its partners” and “for now, nothing indicates that additional measures would need to be taken to protect mosques,” the Crisis Centre spokesman said, adding, however, that “local police can always decide to take measures for certain mosques.”

    In Belgium, the Christchurch attack, perpetrated by an “extremist, right-wing, violent terrorist” in the words of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, has been strongly condemned by political and religious leaders.

    Prime Minister Charles Michel stressed on Twitter that the country would “stand firm against hate and intolerance” and that such “violent acts will only strengthen our resolve”.

    “We must continue to strongly condemn racist, religious and extremist violence, ” tweeted Socialistische Partij – anders (sp-a) leader John Crombez.

    In a letter to Mehmet Üstün, head of one of two main Muslim organisations in Belgium, the Exécutif des Musulmans de Belgique (EMB), two of the country’s main Jewish leaders expressed their consternation at the “cowardly” attack. “We categorically condemn this barbaric attack,” Philippe Markiewicz, president of the Consistoire central isréalite de Belgique, and Grand Rabbi of Brussels Albert Guigui said, adding, “We express our full support to the Muslim community of Belgium”.

    The EMB and the Conseil de Coordination des Institutions islamiques de Belgique (CIB) issued a joint press release calling for action “against all hate speech and ideologies that incite violence.” While stressing the urgent need to come out against the attack, the two organizations cautioned that “condemning a phenomenon that is becoming omnipresent in our societies is not enough to eliminate it” so legislative measures needed to be envisaged.

    “The time has finally come for anti-Muslim hatred to be criminalized in our European laws just like anti-Semitism” and as is done through anti-racist, EMB and CIB said, while calling on the State to take serious measures to “protect Muslim places of worship and avoid the worst”.

    They also urged Muslims in Belgium to exercise “extreme care, particularly around mosques and Muslim cultural associations”.

    Oscar Schneider
    The Brussels Times