Antwerp: Daring to tell the truth about radicalization

Marijke Uijt den bogaard, an "immigrant" of dutch origin worked for six years in Berchem, Antwerp, as a field worker for a municipal organization under supervision of the alderman of society construction, Chantal Pauwels. She was busy with building up society, positive imagery and dialog and had close contact with Berchemens of turkish or Moroccan origins.

She describes it as a success story, precisely because she did not approach the Berchemens according to their ideas, but as Antwerp residents, who were asked what they would do for a positive, diverse society.

"I played up the feeling of identification and saw the immigrant not as a sort of 'noble savage', but as a resident of the city with whom you better talk and can realize things. The many successful projects in dialog prove that that is so.

A musical evening was organized withe the Moroccan Rachid Kasmi in which many residents came. In that evening we were all Antwerp residents. The evening was closed with Bolero van Ravel, which was performed by musicians from Turkish, Moroccan and Flemish origin. A Turkish singer sang an old Hebrew song"

Uijt den bogaard was fired in the summer. The organization saw her as a problematic figure, and didn't like her reports about the situation by some of the Muslim community. In these reorts and during work meetings she warned of disturbing tendencies among Antwerp Muslims, and said there is a clear and structural radicalization.

[Esther: Three months ago Pauwels was quoted as saying that she was aware of signals of radicalization by specific Muslim groups in the city.]

Uijt den bogaard had received til then only excellent evaluations, and she fought her dismissal. she also received a "undesired behavior at work" citation by the municipal commission, which found that the administration didn't function as it should.

Uijt den bogaard says that by setting her aside and branding her reports as biased the city is ignoring this alarming evolution.

"Among some of the Muslim in Antwerp there's a group that says contact with non-Muslims is necessary only if you as a Muslim can make a profit out of it. They think that infidels aren't equal to Muslims. They are not interested in our society model of equality and conference."

"how much weight do they carry?"

"Their self assurance is rising and they are already better organized. They use modern means to reach the youth, with a website and possibilities to pose questions by internet. They give advice, but from a very strict method of Islam. For example, strict social separation between men and women is important to them. That's possible, but it leads to problems if you advise woman to demand a female doctor at the hospital. It's in conflict with the equality principle according to which our society is organized.

Another example is the social connection between Muslims and others. I once heard a youth ask if you as a Muslim can drink with a colleague after work. The answer was appalling: 'you go with non-Muslims only if you get benefit by it'. In a diverse society that must live together that is, with all respect, a radical standpoint.

In their ideology the Koran and Islam are above the law. You can see that they are serious with the manner in which they see Islam by the way the cultural center in Berchem wanted to organize an evening. People wanted to split the hall with curtains, women behind the curtain and separate from men. Luckily the center administration managed to sidelay their plan. There was an exhibition there. Photos that were indecent were turned around.

"Is their message accepted by the immigrants?"

According to the organization itself they have a few thousand members. What alarms me more is that this trend is carried through to some mosques. They follow the strategies of what happened in Rotterdam, with which the association, according to them, had cooperation. In Rotterdam and The Hague the activities of these organizations draw attention because of their radical ideas.

The standpoint of Vlaams Belang gets enormous attention,and people even call the voters dung-beetles. But when such extreme ideas are spread among Muslims, we barely pay attention.

In the end, for the Muslims I was an enemy with that radical idea, the "Christian enemy". I had reported these alarming developments and my superior equated my reports with Vlaams Belang texts, but she advised me not to write anymore. But if a doctor wants to cure something, he must dare to look at the wound.

If you show such alarming evolution, you must assume you'll hit a wall. The identity of Antwerp residents must be defined, and the midfield Turkish and Moroccan organizations can play a role here. But I don't see that happening much by most Turkish and Moroccan organizations. In all these time only one Turkish associations - Meva - did so.

But because ethnic and faith convictions color the club life, the mutual understanding between the Turkish and Moroccan associations are sometimes a mine field. In this sense I don't believe the spokespeople. Everyone stands for a sub-group.

"What do the mosques say about this evolution?"

The management of such a mosque has, by me, too little solidarity with society, they sometimes don't understand much of what's happening. Often the administration is composed of first generation immigrants, people around the age of sixty. I admire their success in running the mosque, but they speak little to bad Dutch. By some their knowledge of Islam is very rudimentary.

By the Turks it's different. Their imams come from the homeland and are followed up both here and there. The consul is responsible for them they have finished studies. The Moroccan imams are chosen by the administration here and must therefore preach for their bosses. Their knowledge of Islam and which interpretation they follow strongly differs.

"If the administration doesn't follow up on your findings, who should do it?"

I continue to ask myself when the first debate evening would come in which Muslims and especially the famous Muslims, would say out loud that they are being pushed out by these hardliners in the name of the Koran and they don't recognize their place anymore. But yes, to criticize a brother or sister is very difficult. The vision that these radical Muslims spread, however, is doing injustice to many other Muslims and stigmatizes a whole religion. That should concern every Muslim in Antwerp. They shouldn't wait anymore, it is already too late."

Source: FaithFreedom (Dutch), from De Standaard

See also: Antwerp: Screening fundamentalist Muslims

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