Belgium: Paid Muslim chaplains in prisons

Due to the acute shortage of Muslim chaplains in prisons, a royal decree from Oct. 25th, 2005 opened up a new framework for chaplains and moral consultants in prisons. The intention was to take into account the religious and moral needs of the prisoners.

"According to a ruling from 2005, 26 Muslim consultants were provided. In the first trimester of 2007 they will start their duties. The 27 are equivalent to 18 full-time paid workers," according to Annaïk Voghel, spokesperson for Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx, who is also responsible for public worship functions. There are 18 French speakers and 9 Dutch speakers.

Coskun Beyazgül, president of the Muslim Executive of Belgium, is waiting for the application of this decision with impatience. He regrets that the decision has been held up for so long. "I've received information that they would start within two weeks, from the moment their inspection is over."

The Muslim consultants were nominated by the Belgian Muslim Executive. At the moment they are being investigated by the state security services. Till now only Catholic chaplains were paid by the state, while the Islamic consultants worked as volunteers.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

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