Police in Brussels will undertake training from February to learn about Islam so as to foster “respectful” relations with the city’s Muslim communities.
Entitled “Conflict management or how to avoid difficulties when dealing with Muslims”, the eight-hour module will cover the basics of the Islamic religion, and the history of immigration to Belgium from 1960 to the present. Police officers will also be taught “the difference between religion and culture” and given an overview of the country’s different Muslim communities.
The classes, which will incorporate role-playing to make training more practical according to La Capitale, will be taken by officers in addition to a separate eight-hour course which concerns jihadism and radicalisation.
“Police believe that a basic knowledge of Islam is essential to a committed police force”, said MP and member of the Jette police board, Annemie Maes. Explaining that the training comes at the request of the force itself, she said police “wish to foster respectful mutual relations [with Muslim communities]”.
Such relationships would be “characterised by a positive openness to the sharing of knowledge”, the Green politician added.
Campus Vesta, Antwerp’s police training school, began training officers in the basics of Islam last May. Bruno Peeters, the police deputy responsible for the school, assured De Standaard that the information taught on the program is “very respectful” of Islam.
Officers in Antwerp are now taught about several different religions, and basic training includes visits to a synagogue, a mosque, and the Dossin Barracks Holocaust Museum, the newspaper also reported.
Belgium has struggled to contain Islamic extremism for several years, with the Molenbeek district in Brussels having become known as Europe’s centre of jihad and where a large portion of the Paris and Brussels terror attackers resided.
Paris attacker Salah Abdeslam was able to hide in the borough from Belgian authorities for several months after taking part in the attacks with help from neighbours, family, and friends.