Belgium’s Muslim Executive has responded angrily to accusations aired this week of Moroccan intelligence infiltration of the Great Mosque in Brussels.
The mosque, in Cinquantenaire park in Brussels, had applied for recognition as a local faith community, after losing its status because the government considered it was unduly under the influence of Saudi Arabian extremists.
But justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) withheld recognition, claiming that the mosque is now under the influence of Moroccan state intelligence, members of which hold posts within the mosque’s administration.
“We deny all allegations of so-called foreign interference and espionage, which are completely unfounded,” the Executive said in a statement.
“There are no spies here,” spokesperson Tahar Chahbi told the VRT. “I would stake my life on it.”
The Executive accused the minister of playing politics.
“There was never a problem under the previous justice minister, Koen Geens,” Chahbi said.
“Not even under his predecessor Annemie Turtelboom. But Vincent Van Quickenborne came to power a month ago, and suddenly Belgian intelligence discovers there are spies.”
As well as the allegation by Belgian State Security that Morocco had infiltrated the mosque, Van Quickenborne also raised questions about the representation of the Muslim Executive, particularly the shortage of women and Dutch-speaking representatives.
The Executive responded by pointing to the Belgian constitution’s protection of the right to freedom of religion.
“The minister should not interfere with that. If he interferes with us, he should also do the same with the Jewish community and the Catholic Church. I don't see any female priests. Why does he have to bother with the representation of women in the Executive? Women are represented, and they are respected.”
The Brussels Times