Islam in Belgium
|Islam by country|
Islam is the second largest religion in Belgium, accounting for 5 to 7% of the total population (If all immigrants with Islamic backgrounds are included, Muslims' share of the population rises to 8.1% as of 2011). Muslims are concentrated in certain regions of the country, constituting 23.6% of the population in Brussels, but just 4.0% in Wallonia and 3.9% in Flanders.
According to estimates released in 2007 by sociologist Jan Hertogen, the largest group of immigrants in Belgium, numbering 264,974, are Moroccans. The Turks are the third-largest group, and the second-largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 159,336. These estimates are criticized by the General Direction of Statistics and Economical Information (former National Institute for Statistics) because he simply added the global number of naturalized people without taking into account those who died or remigrated afterwards.
[source needs translation] Other nationalities represented are mostly Arabs, Pakistanis and West Africans. No accurate numbers can be given as religious or ethnic censuses are forbidden in Belgium, and most people with roots in Islamic countries (including Christian Assyrian refugees from Turkey) took the Belgian nationality, their children born in Belgium are more and more born as Belgian citizens and thence do not appear in any statistics. Moroccan and Turkish immigrants began coming in large numbers to Belgium starting in the 1960s as guest workers. Though the guest-worker program was abolished in 1974, many immigrants stayed and brought their families using family reunification laws. Today the Muslim community continues to grow through marriage migration. More than 60% of Moroccan and Turkish youth marry partners from their home countries.
In 1974, Islam was recognized as one of the subsidized religions in Belgium and the Muslim Executive of Belgium was founded in 1996. In 2006, the government gave €6.1 million (US$7.7 million) to Islamic groups.
According to a 2006 opinion poll, 61% of the Belgian population thought tensions between Muslims and other communities would increase in the future.
In December 2004, the Belgian government said it was considering a ban on the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols for civil servants.
In June 2005, the Antwerp Court of Appeal ruled that it was outside the jurisdiction of the state to determine whether Islam requires women to wear a headscarf and that girls in public schools have the right to do so. However, the school board also has the authority to restrict that right for organizational reasons, or for the good functioning of the school, though it must justify any such restrictions.
At the end of 2005, approximately twenty municipalities had issued a ban on walking the streets completely veiled. In a few cases women were fined €150 (US$190) for ignoring the ban. Under a 1993 executive order, persons in the streets must be identifiable. A veil which does not completely cover the body is however allowed.
On 30 September 2003, a Belgian court convicted 18 men for involvement in a terror cell. Nizar Trabelsi was sentenced to 10 years for plotting a suicide attack against the NATO air base at Kleine Brogel. Tarek Maaroufi, of the Tunisian Combat Group, was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a Brussels-based fake passport ring that supplied fake Belgian passports to the men who assassinated former Afghan Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before the September 11 attacks.
In October 2004, a Belgian court sentenced eight Islamic militants to prison terms of up to 5 years for plotting attacks and for links to Al Qaeda. According to prosecutors, Saber Mohammed received three phone calls from senior Al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which he was believed to be forwarding for colleagues. Also convicted was Tarek Maaroufi.
2016 Brussels bombings
On the morning of Tuesday, 22 March 2016, three coordinated nail bombings occurred in Belgium: two at Brussels Airport in Zaventem, and one at Maalbeek metro station in Brussels. In these attacks, 35 victims and three suicide bombers were killed, and 316 people were injured. Another bomb was found during a search of the airport. Two suspects are on the run. The organization Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attacks. The bombings were the deadliest act of terrorism in Belgium's history. The Belgian government declared three days of national mourning.
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