The co-founder of the Islam Party, Redouane Ahrouch, says he will challenge his dismissal by the Brussels public transport company, Stib, in the labour court, Het Nieuwsblad and the Gazet van Antwerpen reported on Tuesday. Ahrouch was a bus driver until Stib dismissed him recently for statements it judged “in contradiction with the values of the company”.
Speaking in the media on his party’s programme, Ahrouch had said, among other things, that he was in favour of separating men and women in public transport vehicles, a statement that had caused a controversy.
He first tried to challenge his dismissal internally. “The Stib refused to talk to my union representatives and to me because, it said, I had not committed any professional or disciplinary error,” the party leader said. “Why, then, are they dismissing me after 25 years of loyal service and six years as a municipal councillor in Anderlecht?”
Ahrouch had also caused a stir during an appearance in late April on the “C’est pas tous les jours dimanche” (Every day is not Sunday) programme on RTL-TVI, when he deliberately avoided looking at journalist Emmanuelle Praet. She later said she had felt humiliated.
The journalist consulted a lawyer, who sent a letter to the Stib after the programme. Reporting on the letter on the 5th of May, La Dernière Heure said the journalist hoped the public transport company would “take a stand” and was in no way asking for Ahrouch’s dismissal.
Ahrouch contends that Praet’s lawyer exerted pressure on his employers, who dismissed him one week after the televised debate.
Stib confirmed that it had received a letter from Praet, but stressed that it arrived after the bus driver’s dismissal. “The dismissal is, anyway, unrelated to the letter”, said Stib spokesperson An Van Hamme. “The decision had already been taken.”