Brussels: A Muslim neighborhood

Every time the adhan is raised in Molenbeek, the Muslim call to prayer echoes 20 times in the Belgian capital's western neighborhood.

That's because the district is home to 21 mosques, rightfully earning it the reputation of Brussels' Islamic center.

At the heart of Molenbeek, lies Al-Khalil, the biggest mosque in all Belgium.

"The building was originally a factory and the Muslim community came together to turn it into a mosque in 1985," Abdel-Karim Al-Kebdani, the mosque director, told

The mosque, which accommodates up to 1,000 worshippers every week at the Friday prayer, also serves as a cultural and social center.


In the immigrant-dominant neighborhood, where Muslims constitute two thirds of the 83,000 population, it is hardly possible to come across a blue-eyed or blonde haired person.

Walking down Molenbeek streets, one cannot mistake the Islamic aura and spirit coloring the neighborhood.

Young women in colorful hijab and young men sporting beards are the common face.

Conversations and chatting flip between French and Arabic.

The cafes of Molenbeek offer the famous Arabic tea instead of alcohol.

The sound of recitation of the Noble Qur'an resonates from the shops dotting the neighborhood with signs bearing distinctive Arabic names.

"My neighbors got used to listen to Qur'an every Friday," the owner of an Islamic bookstore told IOL.

A secondary Islamic school named after renowned Islamic philosopher and physician Avicenna was opened this year.

Kebdani, Al-Khalil mosque's director, believes that Molenbeek stands as the perfect symbol of tolerance in Belgium, which became in 1974 the first European country to recognize Islam.

"Our neighborhood perfectly reflects the diversity and tolerance of the Belgian society."

Source: Islam Online (English)

See also: Brussels: Less and less women on the street, Book Review: Undercover in Little Morocco, The Middle East in the heart of Brussels

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Our neighborhood perfectly reflects the diversity and tolerance of the Belgian society." That's why several extreme moslims worked very hard to chase all jewish shops in the area. A barber who resisted got his shop destroyed and the police of the Socialist mayor and futur Emir of this Mollahbeek didn't do anything as he needs more the Muslim voters than Jewish voters. So if Jews are trown out dus not disturb that Philippe Moureaux at all.