Islam in Belgium

Islam in Belgium

Islam in Belgium is relatively new, and is mostly practised in the Belgian immigrant communities. It is the largest minority religion in Belgium.


It is estimated that between 3 to 4% of the Belgian population is Muslim (98% Sunni) or has 350,000 to 400,000 people (estimates). The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi.

The largest group of immigrants in Belgium are Moroccans, with 264,974 people. The Turks are the third-largest group, and the second-largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 159,336. [ [ Voor het eerst meer Marokkaanse dan Italiaanse migranten] ] Other represented nationalities are South Asians, Sub-Saharan Africans and former Yugoslavians.

Moroccan and Turkish immigrants began coming in large numbers to Belgium starting in the 1960s as guest workers. Though the guest-worker program was abolished in 1974, many immigrants stayed and brought their families using family reunification laws. Today the Muslim community continues to grow through marriage migration. More than 60% of Moroccan and Turkish youth marry partners from their home countries. [ [*SGK&n=47866 Aspecten van Marokkaanse huwelijksmigratie en Marokkaans familierecht] ]

In recent years, stricter immigration laws in the Netherlands have caused an increase in people moving to Belgium for a temporary period, in order to use the more loose Belgian family reunification laws. This has become known as the "Belgian Route". [ [ België vindt Nederlands vreemdelingenbeleid te streng] ]

Religious Infrastructure

In 1974 Islam was recognized as a one of the subsidized religions in Belgium and the Muslim Executive of Belgium was founded in 1996. In 2006, the government gave $7.7 million (6.1 million euros) to Islamic groups. [ US State Department, International Religious Freedom Report 2006, Belgium] ]

According to a 2005 Free University of Brussels study, about 10% of the Muslim population are "practicing Muslims."

There are estimated to be 328 - 380 [ Frontline] , PBS] mosques in the country.


According to a 2006 opinion poll 61% of the Belgian population think tensions between Muslims and other communities will increase in the future. [ [ "Vooral jongere Vlaming ziet islam niet zitten"] , Het Laatste Nieuws, 26 October 2006]


Although Belgium's high court ruled that a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf could not be denied an identification card, Belgium's parliament has introduced a ban on the wearing of headscarves in schools and public offices. In December 2004, the Belgian government said it was considering a ban on the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols for civil servants.

In June 2005 the Antwerp Appellate Court ruled that it was outside the jurisdiction of the state to determine whether Islam requires women to wear a headscarf and that girls in public schools have the right to do so. However, the school board also has the authority to restrict that right for organizational reasons, or for the good functioning of the school, though it must justify any such restrictions.

At the end of 2005, approximately twenty municipalities had issued a ban on walking the streets completely veiled. In a few cases women were fined $190 (150 euros) for ignoring the ban. Under a 1993 executive order, persons in the streets must be identifiable, based on laws dating back to the Middle Ages. A veil which does not completely cover the body is however allowed.


Several terror plots in recent years involved fundamentalist Islamists.

On Sept. 30, 2003, a Belgian court convicted 18 men for involvement in a terror cell. Nizar Trabelsi was sentenced to 10 years for plotting a suicide attack against the NATO air base at Kleine Brogel. Tarek Maaroufi, of the Tunisian Combat Group, was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a Brussels-based fake passport ring that supplied fake Belgian passports to the men who assassinated former Afghan Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the week after the March 11, 2004 Madrid train bombings, Belgian police arrested four members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group.

On June 8, 2004, 15 people tied to Rabei Osman El Sayed Ahmed, a main suspect in the Madrid bombings, were arrested in Antwerp and Brussels. A Belgian law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that the arrested men had been in contact with Ahmed, whom Italian police had captured on wiretaps discussing future attacks, and that they may have been headed for missions in Iraq.

In October 2004, a Belgian court sentenced eight Islamic militants to prison terms of up to 5 years for plotting attacks and for links to Al Qaeda. According to prosecutors, three months before the Sept. 11 attacks, one of the men, Saber Mohammed, an Iraqi Kurd, received multiple phone calls from senior Al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Also convicted was Tarek Maaroufi.

On November 9th, 2005, Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert to Islam, committed a suicide car bomb attack against a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad

Notable Belgian Muslims

* Dyab Abou Jahjah
* Saïd El Khadraoui
* Nasreddin Lebatelier

ee also

* Religion in Belgium

Further reading

* cite journal
quotes =
last = De Raedt
first = Thérèse
authorlink =
coauthors =
date =
year = 2004
month = April
title = Muslims in Belgium: a case study of emerging identities
journal = Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs
volume = 24
issue = 1
pages = 9–30
issn =
pmid =
doi =
id =
url =
language =
format =
accessdate =
laysummary =
laysource =
laydate =
quote =

External links

* [ Euro-Islam] breaking news on Islam in Europe (legislation, security, opinion polls) including profiles of Islam by country
* [ Terrorists in Europe find a base in Belgium] , New York Times, October 10, 2005
* [ Belgium's Immigration Policy Brings Renewal and Challenges]
* [ Center for Islam in Europe]
* [ Islam and Muslims in Belgium. Challenges and opportunities of a multicultural society]


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