German media is reporting on the Islamic Cultural Center of Belgium at the Great Mosque of Brussels. According to the Deutsche Welle report, the mosque is financed by the Saudi Muslim World League and has become a center for Salafism in Belgium:
November 21, 2015 In an attempt to send a strong message to Belgian society, Mohamed Ndiaye, one of the Imams of the Islamic Cultural Center of Belgium at the Great Mosque of Brussels, said: ‘We would like to express our deep sorrow over the Paris attacks. Our thoughts are with the people of Paris and the victims’ families.’
The Islamic Center, situated in Brussels’ (and Belgium’s) largest mosque, stands at the edge of the Cinquantenaire Park in the center of the city’s EU quarter, just a few minutes walk from the European Commission. As the faithful gather for Friday prayers, leaders of this house of worship are holding a press conference. They seek to counter the mosque’s reputation as a hotbed for Salafist radicalization in Belgium.
Dialogue, in Arabic Imam Ndiaye offers an overview of the Islamic Center’s activities. Besides prayer services, the center offers Arabic courses, encounters with EU representatives and Belgian citizens, training for Imams, Quran classes for some 700 children and much more. He paints a picture of an institution entrenched in Belgian society, one which considers its task to be the furthering of cultural understanding.
Ndiaye delivers his presentation in perfect French. He is followed by the mosque’s Chief Imam, Abdelhadi Sewif, who says, in Arabic: Islam is a religion of peace and charity. It has nothing to do with terror like that in Paris. The center’s director, Jamal Momenah, doesn’t want the mosque to be seen as being connected to the radical Islamists of Molenbeek either.
Such radicals have a false understanding of Islam. The situation, he says, is much like in a family in which some members do bad things. Momenah is the Saudi representative of the group, Sewif hails from Egypt.
Momenah deflects a question asking why his mosque, with its privileged position, has not undertaken steps to exert its influence over the hate preacher of Molenbeek, whose views have been known for years. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, he says, one works independently of other preachers. Momenah too, speaks to journalists in Arabic, though he has lived in Belgium for three years. Imam Sewif has been in Belgium since 2004.
What do they think about the idea of requiring mosques to hold their services in the native tongue of the host country? Their answer, everything is translated anyhow. They assert that an insistence upon preaching in Arabic does not encourage a parallel Muslim society.”
Read the rest here.
A 2008 report by the GMBDW author on the Muslim Brotherhood in Belgium noted the role of the Islamic Cultural Center of Brussels (ICCB):
In addition to these factors, the Belgian government appears to have created a power vacuum in the Muslim community by ending its relationship with the Saudi-sponsored Islamic Cultural Center of Brussels (ICCB). Founded in 1969, the ICCB is chaired by the Saudi Ambassador and receives most of its funding from the Saudi Muslim World League. Until 1990, the ICCB had been treated by the Belgian government as the official representative of the Muslim Community in Belgian and allowed it to recommend imams and teachers who were then appointed by the government. However, opposition to the ICCB from the local Muslim community forced an end to its role, and in 1994, the government appointed a committee of Muslims called “De Belgische Moslim Executieve” in Dutch or “L’Exécutif des musulmans de Belgique” in French. 7 The newly created organization took over the role of the ICCB in appointing teachers and imams and served as the basis for an election at the end of 1998 that created the Representative Council of the Belgian Muslim Communities, the officially recognized organization of Muslims in Belgium. Although participants in these organizations were vetted by the Belgian government to weed out extremists, the jockeying for power that took place attracted the interest of the Muslim Brotherhood, which may have created organizations in order to further its legitimacy.
The Muslim World League was established in 1962 as a means for the propagation of Saudi “Wahabbi” Islam. Muslim Brothers played an important role in its founding and the League has always been strongly associated with the Brotherhood. US government officials have testified that MWL has been linked to supporting Islamic terrorist organizations globally and the organization has a long history of anti-Semitism.
(Note: One of the “Islam Experts” interviewed for the article was Michael Privot who in 2008 acknowledged that he was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood)