Last week Belgian news reported about fundamentalist Muslims pressuring Muslim restaurant owners in Antwerp to stop serving alcohol. The story hit a nerve by a lot of people and generated a lot of feedback.
I was contacted by Abdelhay ben Abdellah, a Moroccan-Belgian currently working in Bahrain and former member of the Muslim Executive in Belgium. Abdelhay runs his own blog (Dutch), where he wrote his own take on the "alcohol ban" story.
Abdelhay points out that this story should be taken in the local context - there are local elections on June 10th, and this story has been blown out of proportion in preparation for those elections. (emphasis added by me).
As for the first point I think we must clearly distinguish a threat from an advice. Believe me I know this community in Antwerp very well and I know the area Borgerhout. There is a marginal group of "Ahl Adda3wa" [ed: Dawah] who think to bring salvation by visiting coffee shops, restaurants owned by Muslims. Myself years ago when I noticed them entering a pub, I always thought: "There we go again, common guys give me a break I don't need your religious advice!". But however they are not threatening people, they are very marginal and they don't have any intimidating character. They might influence someone by giving him/her a feeling of guilt but that's it. The media and some politicians are portraiting these guys as if people are afraid of them. That's not the case.
It's all about politics. June 10 is near and some people just invent whatever to get the spotlight on them. As long as they attack a group/community which is very weak in communication.
It's not up to the politicians or opinion maker to react on behalf of the shop owners when there is no evidence of any threat or pression made by this group(s). I am still waiting for the first shop owner in Antwerp to say: "Yes I was put under pressure." When that happens then we have a case. Making noise without a case is an overreaction caused by an allergy to Islam or
I agree with his point that it is the shop owners who should be complaining, if they are under threat. No shop-owners were interviewed to complain. But it is also hard for me to see this story without looking at the global context. Muslims are being killed around the world for not being Muslim enough in the eyes of some.
See also: Antwerp: Dropping alcohol from the menu