Federal justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) has declined to grant a new recognition to the Great Mosque in the Cinquantenaire park in Brussels, unless there is a change of management.
The Great Mosque had its recognition as a local faith community withdrawn last year after it was found to be under the influence of the Saudi Arabian government, responsible for the propagation of Salafist theology, seen as being extremist.
The new application for recognition was supported by the main Muslim representative organisations, but was nevertheless turned down.
The reason was that Belgian intelligence had found evidence that the departure of the Saudis from the running of the mosque had cleared the way for Morocco, which had installed its own representatives. There was even a suggestion of espionage being carried out by Rabat under cover of the mosque.
Three of the mosque’s staff, including one director, were identified as members of Moroccan intelligence.
The decision by Van Quickenborne goes further than the mosque itself. The Muslim Executive, the largest group representing Muslims in Belgium, has been ordered to purge itself of representatives of the Moroccan government. The same order has been given to the non-profit set up by the Executive to organise a new training programme for imams.
“All organs of the Muslim Executive must be restaffed with Muslims who mean well to our country,” Van Quickenborne said this morning on VRT Radio 1.
According to the minister, the same suspect figures have been in control of the Executive for years.
The Executive, he said, ought to be promoting “a progressive Islam” which is “compatible with our society’s values”.
“But it only has room for men, and there is no representation for the different language communities,” he said, issuing a call to all Belgian Muslims. “Stand up and let yourselves be heard. Show that you can make a difference, because we really can’t go on this way.”