‘Drunk’ Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol is arrested for tearing full-face veil off a Qatari princess

Jean-Marie PireA senior Belgium diplomat specialising in protocol has been arrested for tearing off the full-face veil of a Qatari princess after she asked him for directions.

In the latest example of the difficulties involved in imposing a so-called “burka ban”, Jean-Marie Pire did not know the identity of the massively wealthy VIP before attacking her.

She approached him with two other women in broad daylight in central Brussels last week, asking for directions to the famous Grand Place. The kind of full face veils favoured by some Muslim women are banned in Belgium, just as they are in neighbouring countries including France.

“I said I don’t talk to anyone if I can’t see their face,” said Mr Pire. “With this reply, I wanted to make it clear that the veil is banned in Belgium. Because the person asking me a question didn’t seem to hear me, I lifted her veil. I know I shouldn’t have done that, but what she did wasn’t legal either!”

The woman, who has not been named, said she suffered cuts and bruises after her earrings were violently dislodged, along with her veil.

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Vlaams Belang leader questioned about racist internet game

Dewinter Minder, minder, minderThe Antwerp prosecutor has opened an investigation into an internet game published on the website of Vlaams Belang politician Filip Dewinter in the run-up to the May elections.

The game was dubbed Minder, minder, minder (Less, Less, Less), citing Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ supporters when asked whether they wanted “more or less Moroccans”.

In the game Elio Di Rupo (PS) and Guy Verhofstadt (Open VLD) are represented as flies, which the player can swat. Also among the “enemies” to be swatted are Muslim terrorists and mosques.

Police have received several complaints about the racist nature of the game. This has resulted in the current investigation and Dewinter being questioned.

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Vlaams Belang tries to boost election prospects with anti-Islam stunts

Vlaams Belang Flair and Libelle covers

The Helsinki-based company Sanoma Media is threatening to take action against the Belgian far-right party Vlaams Belang for circulating fake front pages of the magazines Flair and Libelle featuring women in veils and burqas.

VB is protesting against the magazines’ refusal to accept adverts for the book Hoer noch slavin – vrouwen en islam (“Whore or slave – women in Islam”) by Anke Van dermeersch, who is leader of the Vlaams Belang group in the Belgian Senate.

VB leader Filip Dewinter has accused Sanoma Media of upholding “the misogynistic views of Islam”. He defended the fake covers, which associate Muslim women with firebombs and grenades, as merely a “humorous parody”.

Last year VB was successfully sued by French footwear designer Christian Louboutin over the use of his shoes on an anti-Islam poster.

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Vlaams Belang in anti-mosque protest

Vlaams Belang Temse anti-mosque protest

Het Nieuwsblad reports that Vlaams Belang has held a demonstration in Temse in East Flanders.

Displaying a banner featuring its favourite slogan, “Freedom or Islam”, the Belgian far-right party was protesting against a proposal to convert a disused former police station into a mosque for the local Moroccan community.

Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter joined the protest and called for a freeze on the opening of any new mosques.

Vlaams Belang activists chant ‘fewer, fewer’ in solidarity with Wilders

Vlaams Belang Wilders coverBelgian Vlaams Belang party activists were chanting “fewer, fewer!” during their party’s electoral congress on Sunday in Antwerp-Belgium, in support of the Dutch right-wing party leader Geert Wilders, who wants “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands.

According to the Belgian news website 7sur7, 2,000 activists appeared in support of the anti-Muslim Geert Wilders and chanted “fewer, fewer!” as the Vlaams Belang party leader, Filip Dewinter, spoke about stopping immigration in Belgium, during the nationalist party’s electoral congress.

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UKIP’s alliance with extreme-right Islamophobes

EFD logoMembers of Nigel Farage’s political group in the European parliament have compared childbearing Muslim women to Osama bin Laden, spoken at a rally with the BNP’s Nick Griffin, and defended some of the far-right views of the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik.

Farage is facing a decision after the May elections over whether to keep Ukip in the Europe for Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group, an alliance of parties from different countries of which he is co-president, amid criticism of the extreme positions of some of its MEPs and examples of anti-Islam rhetoric on its website.

Ukip argues that all British political parties are forced to have “strange bedfellows” in Europe as it allows parties to qualify for more speaking time in the EU parliament. However, MEPs in any such alliance must have “political affinity” or risk being disbanded by the EU and losing their funding.

Some anti-Islam comments appear on the EFD’s own website. In one video, Magdi Cristiano Allam, an MEP from the I Love Italy party, is translated as saying that Islam is not a religion but an ideology “that preaches hatred, violence and death, but that is something we’re not allowed to say”. His comments are made in response to a speaker at an EFD “study day”, who argues against “caving in” to Muslims in Europe and warns of the threat of “Islamisation” of western society.

One politician in the EFD, Slavi Binev from Bulgaria, spoke at Ukip’s conference last year. An interview with Binev on his website says: “If Osama bin Laden symbolises the cruellest aspect of the Islam for the Americans, then the Muslim woman with her numerous children are his European equivalent.”

The group also contains Frank Vanhecke, a Belgian MEP, whose former party Vlaams Blok was disbanded after a court found it violated anti-racism legislation in 2002. Vanhecke, now an independent, appeared at a student rally with Griffin, the BNP leader, in 2010 and told the Guardian he believes “Islamisation” is a serious problem for Europe.

Another politician in the group is Morten Messerschmidt, a Danish MEP whose youth organisation was given a conviction for incitement to racial hatred in 2002 after it argued crime such as rape was a product of a multi-ethnic society.

Ukip’s biggest partners in the EFD group are the Italian Lega Nord, which is reportedly considering leaving the EFD after the May elections for a tie-up with Marine Le Pen’s far-right French National Front.

Farage’s co-president is Francesco Speroni, an Italian MEP from Lega Nord, who defended some of the views of Breivik in 2011 saying: “If [Breivik’s] ideas are that we are going towards Eurabia and those sorts of things, that western Christian civilisation needs to be defended, yes, I’m in agreement.”

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Belgian Jewish organisation condemns ‘obsession with the Muslim headscarf’

CEJI logoCEJI: “Obsession with headscarf works negatively on the integration of Muslim women”

Brussels, 26 February 2014.
CEJI – A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe is deeply troubled by escalating racism and racial tensions in Belgium, highlighted in reports issued this week by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) (1) and by the Center for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism submitted to the United Nations Committee on Racial Discrimination (CERD) (2).

CEJI is deeply concerned about the division within the Belgian anti-racism movement today on the Muslim headscarf. CEJI believes strongly in the fundamental right of religious freedom and sees more harm than good coming out of this obsession with the Muslim headscarf. Not only has this obsession had negative consequences on the integration of Muslim women in the education and employment system of Belgium, but it also has had a serious impact on the freedom of Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and even Christians to wear religio-cultural dress and symbols. Neutrality is defined only by what is considered an acceptable norm, and we are challenged to re-consider how to make our public space effectively inclusive. Social coercion to wear or not to wear the headscarf is counterproductive to the goal of women’s emancipation.

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Mosques defilement angers Belgians

Genk mosque graffiti (2)Belgium Muslims have denounced the heinous attacks on mosques in the Belgian town of Genk after they were desecrated with swastikas and abusive slogans.

“Despite the shocking nature of the crimes committed, the EMB enjoins Muslims not to respond to the provocation, unless by peaceful and legal means, in accordance with what Islam advocates,” Semsettin Ugurlu, the chairman of the Muslim Executive of Belgium (EMB), said in a statement cited by Saphir News.

Ugurlu has also strongly condemned the “heinous acts of racism, Islamophobia and vandalism.”

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Six European far-right groups join forces on anti-immigration, anti-Islamic platform

Strache posterSix European far-right parties are joining forces ahead of EU-wide elections in May, in a bid to contain Brussels and take back national powers, Austria’s Freedom Party (FPOe) announced Monday.

Representatives of France’s Front National (FN), Italy’s Lega Nord, the Sweden Democrats, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and the Slovak National Party met Friday in Vienna to discuss an alliance that will put Europe “back on the right track,” FPOe leader Heinz-Christian Strache told reporters.

“There are many important patriotic parties in Europe that have recognised problems and are prepared to work together,” he said. After European parliamentary elections in May, there is a “real chance that with the partnership that we’re working on we can have a strong parliamentary group,” he added. The alliance will be formalised after all party leaders have met. Strache did not say when this might occur.

The Vienna meeting came just two days after FN leader Marine Le Pen and Dutch anti-Islamic leader Geert Wilders announced a “historic” alliance of eurosceptic parties to fight the EU elections. Wilders’s PVV party was not present in Vienna but Strache said he would soon meet with the notorious Dutch politician.

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