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Passion Islam I September 2008 SPECIAL FEATURE I 27
a third of them, are “Turkish”. Of the Catholic community. - “the war of the veils”, as it was called
Turkish mosques more than two thirds The law of 1974 also allowed for financial in France); the systematic stigmatizing
are presided over, or at least controlled provisions to be made for the costs of of Islamic values and symbols as being
by the Directorate of Religious Affairs of the infrastructure (the construction and obstacles for a smoothly integration
the Turkish government (Diyanet İşleri maintenance of places of worship) and the of Muslim immigrants; and, of course,
Başkanlığı), while some 25 of them are “personnel” of the cult (e.g. the salaries and the many forms of “daily racism” being
controlled by the so-called fundamentalist pensions of the Imams). The importance perpetrated by officials, for example by
Millî Görüş. of these religious “engagements” by members of the police force, etc. Put
Taken together with the Arabic mosques the Belgian state - which is officially a together, all these facts contribute to make
(the larger number of which is of Moroccan secular state based on the principle of the relationship between the majority and
affiliation), all this has resulted in an separation between “church” and “state” the Muslim minority a disturbed one.
infrastructure of Belgian mosques “with - is measured when one considers that in It goes without saying that this situation
a density that is almost comparable with this way the Belgian Catholic Church is puts a heavy pressure on the peaceful
that of the countries of origin”. annually receiving a total provision of no coexistence between the different
Whatever the precise figures may be, it less than about 10 billion Belgian Francs. communities, and as a consequence
is undeniable that Islam has become “a This sum is paid, of course, by the Belgian on the democratic and pluralist future of
widely embraced, collective reality in the taxpayer - that is by non-Catholics, e.g. by Belgian society as well. A few months
midst of Belgian society”. Quantitatively, Muslims, as well... As for Islamic worship, ago, actually, a report was published
moreover, it represents the second this kind of advantageous treatment, presenting the results of a research project
largest religious denomination of the although provided for by the law of 1974, conducted at the German university of
country; or to put it otherwise: Islam is the has still not yet been put into effect. So, for Bielefeld. It concerns the attitudes among
largest minority religion in Belgium, far a quarter of a century, Muslim inhabitants German youths of Turkish origin between
outnumbering Protestants, Jews, e.a. have financially contributed to a system 15 and 21 years of age. The results are
he settlement of a large Muslim they themselves have been excluded alarming. These youngsters, according to
population in Belgium being an irreversible from. The reason for this unhappy state the director of the project, Prof.Dr.Wilhelm
social phenomenon, the major question of affairs is officially the same one as that Heitmeyer, are becoming more and more
that had (and has) to be faced by a society for the deficiencies in the status of the “fundamentalist”, i.e. they are more and
that considers itself to be democratic Islamic teachers: viz. that it requires the more prone to use violence on religious
and pluralist, is the one concerning the identification of a Muslim authority, an grounds, because they are experiencing
social place and space on the cultural issue which until this moment, for a lot of difficulties while trying to integrate into
scene that one is willing to concede to reasons, had remained unresolved. society. The reason, though, for the
these cultural and ethnic minorities. Will This financial discrimination against disturbing findings is nót religion, i.e.
one actually allow these new segments Belgian Muslims was accompanied, Islam: it is rather European society itself
of one’s population to maintain - be it in all these years, by violations against which, according to Prof. Heitmeyer, is
interaction with their European secular the basic rights of religious freedom thwarting that process of integration.
environment - their collective cultural and which in principle are guaranteed by the Not only Turkish youngsters in Germany,
religious identity? At last, this would be in Belgian Constitution. E.g. the right to be indeed, are confronted with this problem,
accordance with the basic human rights buried according to your philosophical but Muslim immigrants in all the countries
that are upheld by the Belgian Constitution or religious faith: generally, Muslims in of Europe. These youngsters should be
and by the international treaties that Belgium as yet did not have the possibility full members of our society, but in reality
Belgium has signed. Or will one demand, of burying their beloved ones in the they are constantly feeling expelled and
out of irrational fear for the future survival cemetery of their own place of residence. rejected.
of the secular state (if not of “the West”), The same goes for religious rights at It should be clear by now that the
that Muslims accept a kind of privatization school, in prison, in hospital: e.g. the right refusal of Western secular society to
or secularization of Islam - something to eat food that is prepared according to allow immigrants from Muslim countries,
that, for the great majority of them at your religious prescriptions; the right of especially the youngsters of the second
least, would be tantamount to demanding safeguarding yourself against violations of and third generation, to express their
that they abandon their religion? Clearly, your physical integrity - e.g. by wearing a Muslim identity - e.g. by refusing Muslim
the fact that Turkey constitutionally head-scarf and modest dress; the right to girls and young women the right to wear
presents itself as a secular state, is of celebrate your religious feasts, etc. These a head-scarf at school is one of the
little practical relevance to Turkish people infringements must be taken together with reasons why the relationship between
living in Belgium, the great mass of them the usually negative coverage of Islam by non-Muslim majority and Muslim minority
having emigrated from the rural regions of the press and the other media; the regular is worsening.
Turkey. conflicts in schools (e.g. around the scarf
There is no denying that, from the
perspective of basic human rights, the
Belgian state made a good start when in
1974 (19th July) - i.e. almost a quarter of
a century ago, already - it passed a law
granting Islamic worship the same status
as that accorded to religions historically
established in the country: Catholicism,
Protestantism and Judaism. The
immediate and most spectacular effect of
this official recognition was the introduction
(since 1975-76) of the teaching of Islam
in public schools, on the same basis as
the other religions. At present, there are
about 700 Muslim teachers giving Islamic
instruction in both primary and secondary
schools, their (modest) salaries being
paid by the Belgian state. The persisting
deficiencies in their pecuniary and
professional status are imputed to the
absence of a representative body for the
whole Belgian Muslim community. This
representative body is required by the law,
and should at least for matters concerning
the so-called temporalities function as
an analogue of the “head of cult” of the
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