Flanders seeks to create own security agency to oversee mosques

Flanders seeks to create own security agency to oversee mosques
The Al Ihsaan mosque in Leuven sparked controversy in 2017, with members of the current government seeking to revoke its official recognition. © Belga

Flanders wants to create an institution equivalent to Belgium's intelligence and state security agency in order to oversee mosques established in its territory.

Overseeing officially recognised mosques is a competency of Belgium's State Security Service (VSSE in Dutch), managed by the Ministry of Justice, according to Le Soir.

The new Flemish government cited "contradictory recommendations" from VSSE concerning a mosque in Louvain and said it would seek to create its own surveillance institution, according to De Standaard.

The Al Ihsaan in the Flemish city was the subject of criticism in 2017 after reports emerged that an imam there had called said hitting a "misbehaving" woman was justified. According to the Francophone daily, the mosque was shut down preventively as a result of the reports.

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The incident prompted Flander's former interior affairs minister, Liesbeth Homans, who will now preside over the regional parliament, to kick-start a procedure to revoke the mosque's official recognition the following July, citing a report by the VSSE.

But a later report by the VSSE noted that the Louvain mosque had cut relations with the imam in question in February of 2018, as a result of which it was no longer listed as extremist.

The new Flemish government considers that the state body transmitted the information too late and that its recommendations "sometimes contradicted each other," according to De Standaard.

Plans to create a Flemish version of Belgium's VSSE are included in the coalition agreement of the new Dutch-speaking region's new government, sworn in on Wednesday.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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