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27/09/2016

Islamwatch website launched after Brussels attacks ‘breaks racism laws’

Justice & Home Affairs

Islamwatch website launched after Brussels attacks ‘breaks racism laws’

At the Bourse, the place of remembrance for victims of the Brussels attacks, one banner reads, "Not in the name of Islam".

[James Crisp]

A Flemish nationalist website urging Belgians to report their Muslim neighbours for carrying out “halal slaughter…in the bathtub or on the balcony” breaks EU and national hate laws, anti-racism campaigners have told EurActiv.com.

Belgian far-right party Vlaams Belang will launch the ‘Islamwatch’ site today (6 April) in Brussels, 13 days after the terror attacks that rocked the capital on 22 March.

Leader Gerolf Annemans is a member of the European Parliament, and affiliated with the Marine Le Pen-led Europe of Nations and Freedom Group.

The webpage will be used to report, map and monitor the “Islamisation” of Flanders, according to a press release sent by the Vlaams Belang.

Among the “long list” of activities the far-right party want reported are:

  • new mosques or classes of children visiting mosques;
  • veiled women teaching in schools or working in public institutions;
  • new “halal shops or halal butchers”;
  • “halal slaughter committed by neighbours in the bathtub or on the balcony”;
  • “halal swimming”.

“After the jihad attacks in Brussels […] the [Belgian] government is once again only focusing on treating symptoms, rather than on curing the disease: Islam,” the press release said.

The European Network Against Racism (ENAR) said the “denunciation website” was illegal under Belgian and EU rules against discrimination and incitement to hatred.

In Belgian law, incitements to hatred and discrimination against individuals or groups based on ethnic origin and religious belief carry fines of between €50 to €1,000 and up to a year in prison.

ENAR, which represents 150 groups from across the EU, said, “This is a deliberate call to hatred and stigmatisation of the European Muslim community, at a time when we urgently need to encourage dialogue and unity.

“We call on the Belgian government to take all necessary measures to take down this website, which violates EU and Belgian laws prohibiting incitement to hatred and discrimination.”

There is an exception under Belgian law for parliamentary websites but this is not thought to apply in this case.

“Encouraging surveillance and denunciation of religious practices will foster a climate of suspicion against Muslim communities and fuel an escalation of violent incidents targeting Muslims or those perceived as such,” warned ENAR.

There was a rise in Islamophobic incidents in France after the November terror attacks in Paris and the Charlie Hebdo shootings, it added.

As Annemans is not launching the website and today’s conference is not taking place at the Parliament, immediate action by the institution appears unlikely, sources told EurActiv.

EurActiv asked Vlaams Belang for a comment on the legality of the site but none has yet been received. The story will be updated with any response.

It is not the first time Vlaams Belang has launched a “denunciation website”. In 2012, it launched a site for people to report crimes committed by ‘illegal’ migrants.

The Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), also members of the Europe of Nations and Freedom Group, also launched a website calling on Dutch citizens to denounce Eastern European citizens.

Footage from the tunnels of the Brussels metro, moments after the terror attack

EurActiv’s Evan Lamos was in the metro between Arts-Loi and Maelbeek stations this morning when the explosion happened.

EurActiv.com

Tensions

The Belgian capital was hit by two suicide bombings on 22 March, at the city’s airport and the Maelbeek metro station. 32 victims were killed, and and estimated 340 injured.

It was the worst act of terrorism in Belgian history and sparked ugly protests by far-right affiliated football hooligans and neo-Nazis in the city centre the following Sunday.

They occupied the unofficial spot of remembrance for the dead, the Bourse, where residents, including Muslims, gathered for vigils. The thugs were dispersed by riot police.

The Belgian government is planning to force non-EU migrants and refugees to sign a statement of their acceptance of Belgian values before gaining residency. It includes a stipulation to report suspected terrorism

Parliament is expected to pass the proposal in the next few months, according to a spokesman for Belgium’s secretary of state for asylum and migration, Theo Francken.

Two Belgian ministers offered to resign over bomb suspect

Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign on Thursday (24 March) over the failure to track an Islamic State militant expelled by Turkey last year who blew himself up at Brussels airport on Tuesday.

EurActiv.com

The terror outrage, and arrest in Brussels of Paris attacks suspect Belgian-born Saleh Abdelslam, has thrown the spotlight on Belgium, which remains on high alert.

Areas such as the suburb of Molenbeek have been depicted as hotbeds of Islamic radicalisation.

The Brussels attacks also drew increased scrutiny to the EU’s passport-free Schengen zone, which was already under pressure from the migration crisis.

Molenbeek urges Belgium to share information on returning fighters

Sarah Turine is at the forefront in the fight against radicalisation in Molenbeek. Although she detects that fewer people from her commune have left to join ISIS than suggested in the press, she asked for more resources and access to information to prevent terrorism.

Sarah Turine, a member of the Green Party, is the official in …

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Background

So-called "foreign fighters" who leave their European homeland to fight the jihad in places like Syria have become one of the most pressing challenges to EU security in recent years, with the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels coming as brutal reminders of this threat.

At their February 2015 meeting which took place just after the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris, EU heads of state and government underlined that preventing radicalisation is a “key element” of the fight against terrorism.

It was one of the three pillars of the EU strategy outlined by EU leaders, together with further law enforcement and judiciary measures to combat terrorist activities and actions to cooperate with international partners.

Ensuring that checks on persons at external borders become more systematic or harmonised is considered a priority by EU Interior Ministers. Some EU countries have already taken steps to investigate and prosecute foreign fighters before departure (if a crime is already in place) or upon their return.

A number have also decided to use administrative measures to prevent or disrupt travel to Syria, Yemen and other countries where would-be Jihadist can receive training.

From 9/11 to Charlie Hebdo: The EU’s response to terrorism

The European Union has pledged closer cooperation in the fight against terrorism following the killing at Charlie Hebdo, building on measures already taken in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US, and subsequent bombings in Madrid and London. EurActiv gives a round-up of existing and upcoming initiatives.

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