In Belgium, a proposal to limit the influence of political Muslim extremists has been submitted to Parliament, amid fears that Muslim politicians are isolating themselves from the political mainstream, by, among other things, their refusal to shake hands with women.
A proposal was submitted by Deputy Mayor of Koekelberg Philippe Pivin, and Alain Destexche, a liberal member of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, calling for extremist parties to be banned from a range of local functions.
Other members of Parliament can now sign the proposal.
“The people of the Islamic party do not want to be mixed with others in public transport and other communal places,” Alain Destexhe is quoted as saying.“They advocate getting married and wearing a veil at 12 years old, based on Islamic law.”
The European Court of Human Rights has previously explicitly stated that Sharia law is incompatible with the exercise of the freedoms and rights given by the European Convention on Human Rights, the two politicians say, and thus, they argue, the power of extremist Muslims must be curtailed.
The politicians argue that ultra-conservative Muslim beliefs are not compatible with the Convention’ laws against xenophobia, Holocaust denial and racism.
Persons holding such beliefs are not suitable to hold office in local government nor in community bodies, the proposal argues.
Two seats were won by the newly formed Islam Party in Belgium, in last October’s municipal elections, and Destexhe made reference to the Party’s declaration of intent to implement Islamic Sharia law in Belgium.
“The Islam-elected party has refused to shake hands with Molenbeek [municipality in Brussels-Capital Region] Mayor Francoise Schepmans [after being elected]. I feel that some people do not understand how similar this is to the behavior of the extreme right, and how they are creating their own isolated community,” Destexhe explained.
The newly elected Muslim candidates - Lhoucine Aït Jeddig and Redouane Ahrouch – are from areas in Brussles with large Muslim populations.
“We are elected Islamists but above all we are Muslims,” Ahrouch told reporters after being elected in October. “Islam is compatible with the laws of the Belgian people.
As elected Muslims, we embrace the Koran and the tradition of the Prophet Mohammed. We believe Islam is a universal religion. Our presence on the town council will give us the opportunity to express ourselves.”
Ahrouch has already gained a reputation for discriminating against women: he refuses to shake their hands or make eye contact in public.
Belgian politicians have responded with fear and speculation, following the announcement that the Islam Party plans to stand candidates in regional and parliamentary elections in Belgium.
“It is very worrying to see what is happening. We see people with the Islamic background forming their own political party and demanding the introduction of Sharia law and Islamic state in Belgium” Philip Claeys, the MEP for Flanders declared, after the formation of the Islam Party.
“Until now Muslim people mainly supported socialist parties and other leftist parties. But now they feel confident enough to make their party.”
There is a “big problem”, claims Claeys, when people who move to Belgium do not respect the rule of law, and do not understand or accept the separation of Church and State, or the equality of men and women: “We should put a stop to this mass immigration of people coming from outside Europe, mainly Islamic countries, of people who cannot and will not adapt to our way of living in Western Europe.”
It is estimated that around six per cent of the Belgian population are Muslim, around 600,000 people.
Over the last ten years, Belgium has witnessed a rise in Islamic fundamentalism, with the group, Sharia4Belgium causing the most concern. Sharia4Belgium was a radical group, calling for Belgium to become an Islamic State, and for democracy to be abolished.
Members of the group were seen to be violent and threatening towards non-Muslims; and the group called for the death penalty to be re-instated.
Among those threatened were Belgian politicians who opposed the group.
Sharia4Belgium ceased to operate as a group in October 2012 after the arrest of both of its leaders.
One was arrested for possession of illegal drugs, the other incitement to hatred and violence towards members of the non-Muslim community.