According to a study by three researchers at CISMOC (the Interdisciplinary Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World) at UCL, "the bilateral tension between Muslims and non-Muslims in Brussels has reached new heights," reported the Le Soir newspaper on Thursday. Among the explanations for the tension we find international news events, demographics and, most importantly, an accumulation of economic, social, ethnic and generational divisions. Some 150 interviewees were questioned as part of the study, which focuses on four main themes: the younger generation, public services, businesses and Islamophobia. Several forums were set up where groups of ten individuals were invited to express their opinion on these topics. The groups contained equal numbers of Muslims and non-Muslims, and men and women.
The results couldn't be clearer: "There is currently a mutual malaise between Muslims and non-Muslims that cannot be swept under the carpet", says Brigitte Maréchal, a researcher at CISMOC. She highlights, among others, different attitudes and positions on religion, the imagination, fantasies and prejudice, as well as lack of knowledge of others and a certain weariness of multiculturalism, all of which, she believes, lead to people becoming increasingly insular.
The researchers are urging people to analyse their own behaviour and to express the tension and discomfort they might be feeling. They are also calling for true debate to be instigated on topics such as the chauvinistic attitude boys are increasingly having towards girls, the relationship between science and faith, the issue of allowing halal in schools or that of the presence of prayer rooms in the workplace. The researchers conclude that "there are solutions, but we have to be brave enough to face them head on. We should be able to rethink things together."