- In Brussels, Moroccans outnumber people of Belgian origin in the under-18 age group; many schools are attended exclusively by children of non-European origin. In those public schools where parents have the choice of religion classes, Islam is now followed by a majority of pupils. Whether one describes these changes as “diversity” or as a “great replacement” is of little importance; over a few decades the evolution has been considerable and has modified the social fabric of Belgium’s cities.
- The hijab (Islamic veil) is increasingly present and is worn by a majority of women in some municipalities. During the month of Ramadan, almost all shops and restaurants are closed during the day in some areas. The number of mosques is exploding and all currents of Islam are represented in Brussels, where tensions between Sunnis and Shiites, or even between Moroccans and Turks, are sometimes high, especially within the Muslim Executive of Belgium, a structure that the federal government set up in order to have a single interlocutor for the Muslim community, but which has been going from crisis to crisis.
- During trials or elections, it is common to see women arriving with their husbands, and explaining that they cannot be retained as jurors or assessors because they do not speak any of Belgium’s official languages, thus attesting to a completely failed policy of integration. The “vivre ensemble” (“live together”) praised by the Belgian political world is a myth, with communities living side by side but not mixing with each other. Moroccans marry Moroccan women and Turks marry Turkish women…
- In France, the country’s colonial past is regularly evoked to justify the anger of young North Africans. It is an explanation that does not hold: similar incidents take place in Belgium, a country that has no historical link with North Africa.
- What is most distressing is the denial and the total absence of debate on the issues of immigration and integration, mainly on the French-speaking side of the country. Neither the media nor the political parties talk about it. Sunday’s riots were attributed by the mayor of Brussels to “thugs and scoundrels”, a discourse that was widely repeated without any precision or analysis.
- While in France and elsewhere in Europe there is a lively debate around this theme, it is as if Belgium has given up, accepting its destiny as a multicultural country with a Muslim majority in its capital and from time to time a “new normal” made up of urban riots, shootings and terrorist attacks.
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