Authorities have removed the word ‘Arab’ from a monument in Brussels, reversing a move by far-right party members to “restore” it by reinscribing it back on the memorial last week.
The Buildings Agency said that it will not be filing a complaint after two figureheads of far-right party Vlaams Belang (VB) last week put the word ‘Arab’, in Dutch and French, back on the monument.
In the original monument, commissioned in 1911 by Leopold II to honour Belgian colonies, inscriptions in Dutch and French glorified the success of Belgian “military heroism” over “the Arab slave-driver.”
VB members Bob De Brabandere and Dries Van Langenhove placed the word ‘Arab’ back on the monument on 2 July in what they said was a symbolic protest move against the “current cult of apology.”
Their move came as several statues and monuments to Leopold II, Belgium’s colonial king, were pull down from universities and public squares as campaigns for the removal of monuments to colonial exploits from public space garnered wide support.
The presence of the word ‘Arab’ on the monument has been a cause of controversy and in 1988, Belgian officials yielded to pressure from the League of Arab States to remove it.
The words were briefly put back on the monument in 1992, after authorities gave in to a new pressure campaign from the Royal Circle of Former Officer of African Campaigns (Cercle royal des Anciens Officiers des Campagnes d’Afrique), before being definitively scrapped from the monument in 2015.
Citing other graffiti tags sprayed on the monument, the Buildings Agency said that it would stick to cleaning up the monument and said no complaint would be filed.
“Generally, the region files a complaint when one of its properties is truly damaged, when there is actual material damage on a site,” Catherine Cardoso Nunes, a spokesperson for the agency told RTBF.
“When it’s a tag, it’s a bit more complicated because we can clean it. The damage is usually limited and filing a complaint would do no good,” she added.
The Brussels Times