Antwerp: A different take on the alcohol debate

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


Jewish Odysseus said...

If "helpful Islamists" wd kill you for serving alcohol, why wdn't they kill you for complaining to police that Islamists are threatening you for serving alcohol?

In either case, you are DEFYING THE SHARIAH.

All it takes is one good local beheading or restaurant burned down...and then see how "marginal" these thugs appear... :- (

Esther said...

Hi Jewish Odysseus,

Maybe.. but why would they be afraid to speak to reporters, without giving away any information besides the fact that they were threatened?

I agree that in Iraq and Afghanistan people might take such talk otherwise, but if these people have been going into restaurants for years to speak against alcohol and just now somebody remembered to make it top news, the question does beg to be asked why.

Elections are coming up and it is much easier to get the "crusading against fanatic Muslims" hero label than to suggest a working plan of what to do to help integration.

Anonymous said...

What about the Jewish community in Antwerpen? How they think about the growing hatred of muslims?

Jewish Odysseus said...

Hi, Esther.

I think the new situation is precisely that, in the past 2-3 years, "marginal lunatics" have made themselves world-famous by gruesome crimes, both in small groups (Berg, Ilami, VanGogh) and large mobs ("flushed Koran" riots, French riots, Muhammad cartoon riots).

As far as being afraid to speak to reporters...How can anyone be sure someone in the media is disrete, let alone trustworthy?

I AM NOT rejecting the possibility that this is overblown for election reasons, but hey, how much warning did Theo Van Gogh get? :- (

Esther said...

Theo van Gogh got death threats, which he ignored.

Jewish Odysseus said...

And these Muslims in Antwerp are getting "religious advice," which they have [for years] ignored.

Again, I AM NOT rejecting the possibility that this is overblown for election reasons. Time will tell.