As part of a campaign against religious radicalism, local authorities in the troubled Brussels district of Molenbeek have ordered the closure of a “clandestine Islamic school”.
On Tuesday the mayor of Molenbeek, Françoise Schepmans, ordered the school to be closed after a tip-off from a neighbour, reports Sudinfo.be. It had been operating since 2012.
The facility, which had 38 young pupils aged from three to eight years old, was housed in what looked from the outside like a private family home. Inside it was kitted out for children from nursery school age up to the third year of primary education. The children were considered ‘home schooled’, but those teaching, reportedly dressed in niqabs, were not qualified to do so.
In the report published by Politico, it is stated that Mayor Schepmans closed the facility due to “architectural” reasons, not over fears of radicalisation. It is true that town planning infringements were the reasons given for closure, however that is because the local authority does not have competence to shut a school for Islamic radicalism.
In reality a number of non-profit organisations have been targeted in recent weeks, following the announcement from Mayor Schepmans that her district of Molenbeek was going to raise its game in the fight against religious radicalism.
The makeshift school — consisting of a kitchen, an office and two classrooms on the ground floor, three rooms including two for classes on the first floor, a further two in the attic for the smaller children, as well as a rear workshop transformed into a dining hall and playground — was one of the first to be affected by the newly-active council.
Mayor Schepmans explained: “This school is clearly a Quranic institution. Children are placed there all day. It is a ritual question, writing is in Arabic and you feel that this is a sectarian place.”
With fundamentalism growing in the suburb since the 1970s, Molenbeek had become known as a hub of Islamic radicalisaton in Brussels even before it was revealed that Islamic State terror suspects linked to the Paris and Brussels attacks lived in the run-down district.
The newly-interventionist approach taken by the local authority marks a change from the previous policy enacted by Phillipe Moureaux – a prominent Brussels socialist and long-time Mayor of Molenbeek.