Antwerp: Nothing but Allah and his prophet (2)

Antwerp: Nothing but Allah and his prophet (2)

Belgian weekly Knack published its second and last installment in its series of articles about radical Islam in Antwerp. The first article is was "The Jihadis of Antwerp-North" (De jihadi's van Antwerpen-Noord) which I translated in two parts (Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (1) and Antwerp: The Jihadis of Antwerp North (2)

The second article is titled "Nothing but Allah and his prophet", this time focusing on the Salafist movement in Antwerp.

This is the translation of the second half of the article, the first can be read here.



"The believers don't use the term 'Salafists' to designate their own movement," says Dutch journalist and Muslim expert Patrick Pouw.  "They consider themselves simply as 'Muslim' and their movement as the only correct form within Islam."  They consider themselves as superior not only with their faith.  They justify this opinion also in regard to other religions. has as a subtitle: "The religion of all prophets'.  In Islam Jesus Christ is one of many prophets, but JVI apparently has problems with the fact that the Christians consider him the soon of God.  The site says that "Allah will lead the Christian to the Truth and give enough insight to realize that Jesus (peace be upon him) is just one messenger and is a servant of Allah."

According to Alain Grignard, Islamolog at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), the superiority feeling of certain Muslims is inspired by history.  "Judaism conforms to Yahwe, who played a chief role already in the Old Testament.  Christ lived at the beginning of our year count.  But the prophet Mohammed came 600 years after Christ.  He is the last great prophet that God or Allah has sent.  He must therefore be the ultimate example."

On the front page of there's among other things a link to the chapter "Christianity Scrutinized", part of the big Dutch Islamic website ''.  The pages of "Christianity Scrutinized" enumerate in a very calm tone and on the basis of Bible verses why Christianity is hypocritical and Christians 'departed from the right path'.

Many fundamentalists are frustrated about the century long oppression of Islam.  Grignard: "In the 11th century they were still a world power which stretched from the Far East to the Spanish-French border.  Eight centuries later they were even colonized and also now several Muslim countries are occupied by Western powers.  The fundamentalists ask themselves how they could sink so far, they who nonetheless hold to the superior religion.  That the flowering came in the centuries after the death of Mohammed confirms also their belief that they must live as loyally as possible according to the example of their prophet.  For them Muhammed was the revolution.  After that everything must be left behind.  Only in this way they won't meet the devil."

On the other side of the spectrum are the reformists.  They want to adapt Islam to modern society.  "The greatest mistake in that is that we exclusively link fundamentalists, such as the Salafists, to violence and see all reformists as peaceful," says Grignard.  "Just as you have peaceful as well as violent Salafists, there are also peaceful and violent reformists.  There is thus a clear differentiation between the society for which they strive and the way in which they attempt to realize it.  Between the most extreme of the two different scales are various mixtures.  Every movement and every group has its place within that spectrum."


Security services, followed by the media and most of the people, concentrate on the small group of Muslims who see in attacks a way to bring the society in which they live to their side.

But people from the integration sector see a much great danger in the Salafist writings for daily life.  "The bombs or attacks serve only for recruiting.  They keep the pool where the recruiters can fish big enough," says Grignard. "But don't underestimate the group feeling of the Moroccan or Turkish community.  The group is for them still more important than the individual." 

That the US is also for many moderate Muslims the big bogeyman is thus not explained only by their support for Israel or by the wars they lead in Iraq and Afghanistan.  "The US is particularly the most individualized society.  That is the contrast of the Islamisized world," says Grignard.  Due to the extensive attention that the terrorist attacks get, many Westerners consider every Muslim a terrorist.  In addition the Muslims of the first generation of immigrants were ignored for years and lodged in ghettos.  "That brings about that a majority of Muslims assumed a defensive attitude,' explains Grignard.  "They are also very influenced by extremists and radicals.  They manipulate their frustrations by labeling the Westerners as people who 'laugh at our prophet, compare terrorists with Muslims and exclude minorities from their own society."

According to Gringard the strong group bands also ensure that dangerous youth are rarely squealed about, even not by moderate Muslims who internally worry about radicalization.  'For their social frustration of Afghanistan and Iraq is too great.'

The frustration exists not only by Muslims.  Also the Belgian security services sometimes feel powerless in their fight against terror.  "As long as they don't move over or incite to violence, we can't touch them," is an often heard remark by detectives.  "On basis of their discourse alone we can't touch them."  But the frustration is even deeper.  "if the police can intervene, the arrests are mostly efficient.  Certainly in comparison to the military solution.  The presence of western armies in Afghanistan or Iraq only cause a flood of frustrated Muslims, there and in the rest of the world." 

That the police leave many extremists and radicals alone sticks in the throat of the detectives who act day in and day out to collect intelligence.  "In Antwerp as well as in Brussels the city council close their eyes to the radicalization," says an agent of the federal police.  "That political correctness is disturbing.  But still worse it's that this selective blindness is dictated by the fear of losing the votes of the whole Muslim community."

In contrast to the Muslim terror cells who would like to immediately move up to action, most of the Salafists prefers to work steadily but purposefully towards the expansion of their own society, which is diametrically opposed to the existing western society.  Some  also regard the introduction of Sharia as a question of time.  One of their favorite sayings , one expressed by the Algerian colonel and later president Houari Boumedienne on the stand of the UN, goes: 'Nous vousvaincrons par le ventre de nos femmes."  (The wombs of our women will give us victory.)

There are now about half a million resident in Belgium with a Muslim background," says Grignard.  "But their population pyramid is reversed to that of the ethnic Belgians.  60% of the Muslims are young.  The radical recruiters understand that all too well and aim their arrows at this big group.  If we want to create a harmonious society, we must try try to pull those youth out of the influence of people who want to stop exactly such a society. 


According to the JVI website, violence is not a method that meets with Allah's approval.  That at the same time the website doesn't state where the JVI stands  may be seen from the figure of Saïd El Kaoua-kibi.

He is the best friend of chairman Farid Zahnoun and also one of the co-founder of JVI. He clearly belongs to the Jihadist movement within Salafism and is described by the federal police as well as the State Security Service as 'dangerous'.  Until recently one of the 'main targets' of the Belgian security services.  One of the reasons for that was the the cellphone number of the 29 year old Antwerp originally from Boom, was found in the address-books of foreign terror suspects.  Therefore he was also on the lists of foreign security services.

Muslim brothers who were present at the lectures of El Kaouakibi say that he reproached the youth for sitting at their computer the entire day for amusement while their brothers in Palestine die for the good cause.  His older brother Nourdine (SP.A.) is chairman of the Boom welfare agency (OCMW).  He says he's convinced that his brother is doing nothing wrong.  "For him God and his prophet are in first place.  They are indeed more passionate in faith than I am.  But you can't say that they don't see themselves in Western society?  Zahnoun studied informatics and it an IT expert in a big chemical company.  He has a wife and children.  He is even active in a parents organization."

The OCMW chairman himself was never active at JVI.  His party member and mayor of Boom, Patrick Marnef, didn't know that JVI still existed.  "I though that they shut down after they left Boom."  JVI first moved to the Grote Steenweg in Berchem.  Currently their center is next to the Al Fath mosque, which has an entrance from the Sint-Bernardsesteenweg and the Polostaat.   Both addresses are used.

Saïd El Kaouakibi has been living for the past three years in Hoboken and is a regular patron of El Fath.  It's been claimed that a plan to attack the HST tunnel under the canal was planned in the mosque in 2004.  Thank to a tip from an informant it was foiled.  The imam and three other suspects were arrested, but were later not prosecuted due to lack of evidence.  Sources within the federal police don't believe much to that story, but the federal minister of justice at the time, Laurette Onkelinx (PS), confirmed in 2005 the rumors that there were such terrorist attacks planned against the tunnel, as were also against a Jewish school in Antwerp.


See also: Belgium: Terror report

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