Youssef E.G., a young Antwerp imam, disappeared last month and could have gone to fight in Syria. An investigation was opened, reports Het Laatste Nieuws this Thursday. The Mayor’s (Bart De Wever (N-VA)) office confirmed that they know about this case, but refused to reveal more information at this point.
Until last month, Youssef E.G. attended the mosque “El Mohsinien” in the district of Antwerp Berchem. He was also active in the neighbourhoods of Hoboken and Borgerhout, but the mosques’ officials say they had no suspicion, since the man was behaving moderately as part of his duties. It however seems like he revealed his radical ideas during personal interviews.
According to the spokesperson for the Mayor, who does not wish to comment on individual cases, the city of Antwerp has adopted a broad approach to ‘de-radicalization’ that could apply to young people who have been in contact with the imam. Sulayman Van Ael, an imam who has a strong reputation in the city, immediately reacted Thursday morning on his Facebook page, pointing out young radicals. “These people do not realize their irresponsible acts bring down all the positive work from the Muslim community.” He added that Belgium also needs better training for imams so they would no longer have to “import” as many from abroad.