Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne has ordered the civilian intelligence service to investigate the affairs of the Muslim Executive, the body that represents the country’s Muslims.
Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) revealed his plans on last night’s broadcast of the investigative documentary series Pano on the VRT, which was looking at foreign influence on the Executive.
The Muslim Executive was set up to represent the interests of all Muslims in Belgium but some groups have long complained that powerful outside interests, principally Saudi Arabia and its client states, exercise too much power behind the scenes, to the disadvantage of more liberal factions.
“Just continuing with the same people in the same way won’t solve the problem,” he said in the programme. (Watch here (NL).)
“It is very difficult to work with them. I notice a lack of professionalism, a lack of transparency, and any form of innovation is rejected.”
He also revealed that he has officially accused the Executive of being in breach of its own rules, a move taken back in July without a public announcement.
“We have now done that a second time, on Monday 4 October, and I have now also explicitly asked State Security to carry out an audit of the Executive,” he said.
The object of the audit is to determine the extent of foreign interference in the affairs of the Executive, he said.
‘There are reports from within this country, but also from abroad, which show that organisations such as Diyanet [Turkey’s official state Directorate of Religious Affairs] and the Rassemblement des Musulmans de Belgique are vehicles for foreign governments to keep a grip on the Muslim community.”
Speaking on VRT radio this morning, Van Quickenborne said he hoped to have the results of the audit by the end of the year.
“If that shows there is a problem, we can revoke the 2016 Royal Decree, which regulates the recognition and subsidy of the Muslim Executive,” he said.
“In concrete terms, this means that we suspend the financing and the recognition of the Executive. Then we can work on a new organisation and attract new people, through elections of course.”
Earlier in the week it was revealed that a report from State Security had alleged the mosque in Heusden-Zolder plays ‘an important role’ in spreading extremist ideas in Limburg. The mosque in question is headed by Mehmet Üstün, the head of the Muslim Executive.
Meanwhile Van Quickenborne’s party colleague, Flemish internal affairs minister Bart Somers, said in a reaction that there is a fundamental problem in the Muslim executive, namely too much influence from abroad.
“As a government, we can no longer accept this,” he said on VRT Radio 1.