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Moroccan spies working at Great Mosque in Brussels, says justice minister

17:47 04/12/2020

The federal justice department has rejected the request of the Great Mosque in Cinquantenaire Park in Brussels to be recognised as a religious institution. The reason is that state security suspects that some of the members of staff are spies from Morocco.

Following the terrorist attacks of 2016 in Brussels and Zaventem, an investigation was carried out into the influence of the mosque in the radicalisation of local Muslims. The mosque was managed by the Islamic Cultural Centre of Belgium (ICCB), which is financed by Saudi Arabia.

Based on intelligence that determined that Salafist propaganda was being spread, the ICCB was forced to hand over management of the mosque to Belgium’s Muslim Executive. Early this year, that body submitted an application for the mosque to be recognised as an official religious institution.

That would give the mosque the rights and responsibilities of other recognised institutions, such as tax breaks and an imam paid by the state. There are currently more than 20 recognised mosques in Brussels.

‘Should promote progressive Islam’

But justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) has rejected the application for the Great Mosque because state security suspects that three of the current members of staff work for Moroccan intelligence services.

One of the three sits on the board of the Muslim Executive and is also involved in its non-profit organisation that trains imams. Van Quickenborne is demanding that the Muslim Executive purge itself of influence by foreign intelligence.

“The Muslim Executive should promote progressive Islam compatible with the values of our society,” said Van Quickenborne. “But it only consists of men, and it also does not represent the language communities.”

The minister wants to see a complete change of guard in all of the governing bodies that make up the Executive and its related activities. He also made a plea to all Muslims in Belgium. “Stand up and let yourself be heard. Show that you can make a difference because we cannot move forward like this.”

Photo ©Eric Lalmand/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw