The Belgian Federal Government has set aside a multi-million euro fund to work alongside the Muslim Executive on a project aiming “to help stimulate a moderate European form of Islam”.
The Belgian Government has earmarked €3.3 million to be able to pay the wages of 80 new Imams, reports Flemish daily newspaper De Standaard. The move was announced in the light of applications filed in recent months by mosques seeking official state recognition.
Justice Minister Koen Geens said official recognition of mosques forms “part of our strategy to promote a more integrated form of Islam”, one intended to counter radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism. He added:
“A recognised mosque is a sign of an integrated Islam. In the fight against radicalisation, it is important that young people don’t drift into the arms of radical mosques. This also provides us with more interlocutors.”
Mosques that receive official approval are given public funding to pay the wages of Imams and other pastoral staff. In order to qualify for money from the Federal Justice Department the mosques and their staff are scrutinised by the Belgian State Security Service to ascertain whether their version of Islam is deemed to be acceptable. Other input comes from the local municipality and state.
Very few new mosques were granted recognition in recent years, especially in Flanders. Until recently only 30 had been certified, but there are now almost 50 mosques in the Flemish region with pending recognition requests.
Unfortunately official recognition of a mosque has not proved to be the miracle solution against radical Islam the Belgian state would hope.
Last year it was revealed that a young Moroccan imam who had preached in the officially recognised ‘moderate’ mosque, the Dome in Borgerhout, had gone to Syria with two other men to join the jihadists. Youssef El G. — the imam in question — had not been monitored, and the police said his departure came as a surprise.