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Belgium: Muslim consistory says the State interferes in its internal organisation (Unofficial translation)

On February 15 2016, a new royal decree defined the recognition of the Muslim Executive of Belgium. While the new decree aims to institutionalise Islam in Belgium and to redefine the mission of temporal management of the Muslim faith, it also clearly establishes a close link with the fight against radicalisation, specifying that the Executive should represent all currents of Islam in Belgium and combat radicalism. Knowing the announced goal was to assimilate the Executive with those recognised organs representing remaining religious cults in the country, members of several Muslim organisations point out that no other body of worship is asked to take positions or to act in societal, political or ideological matters.

Similarly, the State imposes internal rules of procedure on the Executive and provides for the addition of a group of outside persons among its members to participate in the management of the organisation. To this, critics reply that the Executive is not a union, and many associations play an ample role in raising awareness of various issues related to the principles of religion. They argue that the Executive is designated as the legal representative of recognised mosques in their relation to the civil authority, which is not the case for any of the other cults present in the Belgian territory.

For Muslim associations, the decree has an excessive interpretation of the role of the Executive and creates discrimination by depriving it of any neutrality. For the representatives of Islamic movements, it is a very curious way of wanting to normalise the place of Islam in Belgian society. The Royal Decree was already criticised in April 2016 by the Turkish Foundation of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in Belgium which lodged an appeal for violation of the principle of non-interference of the State in religious affairs.

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