Belgian Imam ‘frustrated’ after being barred from flying over US territory
Share article:
Share article:

Belgian Imam ‘frustrated’ after being barred from flying over US territory

Khalid Benhaddou, a Ghent-based Imam, was not allowed to board his flight due to a US decision to bar him from flying over American territory. Credit: © Belga

A Belgian imam known for advocating a form of “rational Islam” found out he was barred from flying over US territory after being denied boarding on his flight to Mexico.

Ghent-based Khalid Benhaddou was at Zaventem airport when a check-in clerk told him he would not be allowed on board his flight, citing a decision by the US security services.

“I had booked a trip to Mexico, but when my passport was checked at the check-in counter I was told that my departure was being refused by the United States Secret Agency (sic), because I was flying over American territory,” Benhaddou said, according to De Standaard.

He said that the reason for the US agency’s decision was not disclosed to him, and described the incident as “frustrating” and “a very bad signal” when reporting it to the Belga news agency himself.

Benhaddou is the main imam of the El Fath mosque in Ghent, has published several books and is known for promoting a “rational Islam,” which he argues can counter stricter forms of practising the religion.

He is also the chair of the Platform of Flemish Imams and a founder of CIRRA, an Islam expertise centre researching and advising on intercultural and Islam-related questions, and his work, including on preventing radicalisation, has earned him recognition from the Flemish government and the Flemish League of Human Rights, who awarded him prizes in 2017 and 2018.

“This is of course very frustrating, not only because I have lost my money — since the airline is not at fault— but mainly because I went out of my way in the fight against extremism,” Benhaddou said, adding: “If people who are committed to this are stopped and humiliated, this is a very bad signal.”

Benhaddou said he intends to reach out to the American embassy, hoping that a diplomatic solution could be reached and noting that he had not been the only one confronted with such a situation.

“This story goes further than my person, because I hear that many other people experienced the same thing,” he said.

Gabriela Galindo
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Mayor wants to close two Brussels bars where alleged sexual assaults took place
Ixelles' Mayor Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo) said that he’d like to close the two bars that employed a man accused of raping multiple patrons, ...
‘Untenable’: Mayor says situation at Brussels North station is out of control
The situation at Brussels North Station is no longer tenable, Schaerbeek's mayor Cécile Jodogne (Défi) says. Drug dealing, homelessness, ...
Suicide second-leading cause of death among European youth
Suicide is the number two killer among young people living in Europe, a recent Unicef report on the state of their mental health found. The ...
‘Too little, too late’: Brussels mayors criticise CST implementation
After a two week delay, the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) will become mandatory in several situations in Brussels from today (Friday). Some mayors blame a ...
Sciensano expert warns of rising Covid-19 cases this winter
The return of colder weather and the relaxing of health measures are giving rise to new Covid-19 contaminations and hospitalisations around Belgium, ...
Hospital food is making you sick, Belgian study shows
Eating hospital meals results in a measurable decline in health, according to a report from the Flemish television network VTM, which paints a ...
Belgium in Brief: Supply Issues
There are few things more jarring than walking into a store and finding that the shelves are empty, be that partially or otherwise. One thing ...
Stolen Magritte painting on display for first time in ten years
Surrealist painter René Magritte's work "Olympia", which made headlines across the world when it was stolen from a museum in Belgium in 2009, will be ...
Brussels airport pilots ’15 minute’ PCR test
Brussels Airport has announced that it will soon begin a trial of an ultra-fast PCR test able to detect Covid-19 in 15 minutes, a far faster ...
Over 1,000 demonstrators march in Brussels following sexual assault allegations
Around 1,300 people gathered in Ixelles on Thursday night to march against sexual violence, according to reporting from Bruzz. The march was ...
Covid Safe Ticket mandatory in Brussels, but no fines yet
The Brussels-Capital Region will expand the use of the Covid Safe Ticket (CST) from today (Friday), but it will take a few days before rule-breakers ...
Belgium hosts ‘farewell party’ for Merkel today
Angela Merkel will be in Belgium on Friday for an official visit as a symbolic "farewell" before leaving her position as German Chancellor after 16 ...