Islam in Belgium

Islam is the second largest religion in Belgium, practiced by an estimated 7% of the total population.[1] 98% of the Belgian Muslims belong to theSunni denomination, the rest are Shia (mainly Alevi). In Brussels Muslims cover 25.5% of the population, in Wallonia 4.0%, and 3.9% in Flanders.[2]

A 2011 estimation by Belgian academic Jan Hertogen shows that more than 900,000[3] people have a foreign background from Islamic countries.

A 2008 estimation shows[4] that 6% of the Belgian population, about 628,751, is Muslim, either Sunni, Shia, Alevi, and a small population of Ahmadi. Muslims cover 25.5% of the population of Brussels, 4.0% of Wallonia and 3.9% of Flanders. The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi.

According to estimates released in 2007 by sociologist Jan Hertogen, the largest group of immigrants in Belgium, numbering 264,974, are Moroccans. TheTurks are the third-largest group, and the second-largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 159,336. These estimates are criticized by the General Direction of Statistics and Economical Information (former National Institute for Statistics) because he simply added the global number of naturalized people without taking into account those who died or remigrated afterwards.[5] Other nationalities represented are mostly Arabs, Pakistanis and West Africans. No accurate numbers can be given as religious or ethnic censuses are forbidden in Belgium, and most people with roots in Islamic countries (including Christian Assyrian refugees from Turkey) took the Belgian nationality, their children born in Belgium are more and more born as Belgian citizens and thence do not appear in any statistics.

Moroccan and Turkish immigrants began coming in large numbers to Belgium starting in the 1960s as guest workers. Though the guest-worker program was abolished in 1974, many immigrants stayed and brought their families using family reunification laws. Today the Muslim community continues to grow through marriage migration. More than 60% of Moroccan and Turkish youth marry partners from their home countries.[6]

Since 2009, Mohamed is the most popular given name in Brussels and Antwerp, Belgium’s two largest cities.[7]

In 1974, Islam was recognized as one of the subsidized religions in Belgium and the Muslim Executive of Belgium was founded in 1996. In 2006, the government gave €6.1 million (US$7.7 million) to Islamic groups.[8]

According to a 2005 Université Libre de Bruxelles study, about 10% of the Muslim population are “practicing Muslims.”[8]

There are an estimated 328[8]-380[9] mosques in the country.

According to a 2006 opinion poll, 61% of the Belgian population thought tensions between Muslims and other communities would increase in the future.[10]

In December 2004, the Belgian government said it was considering a ban on the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols for civil servants.[9]

In June 2005, the Antwerp Court of Appeal ruled that it was outside the jurisdiction of the state to determine whether Islam requires women to wear a headscarf and that girls in public schools have the right to do so. However, the school board also has the authority to restrict that right for organizational reasons, or for the good functioning of the school, though it must justify any such restrictions.

At the end of 2005, approximately twenty municipalities had issued a ban on walking the streets completely veiled. In a few cases women were fined €150 (US$190) for ignoring the ban. Under a 1993 executive order, persons in the streets must be identifiable. A veil which does not completely cover the body is however allowed.

Several terror plots in the early 2000s involved Muslims.

On 30 September 2003, a Belgian court convicted 18 men for involvement in a terror cell. Nizar Trabelsi was sentenced to 10 years for plotting a suicide attack against the NATO air base atKleine Brogel. Tarek Maaroufi, of the Tunisian Combat Group, was sentenced to six years in prison for his role in a Brussels-based fake passport ring that supplied fake Belgian passports to the men who assassinated former Afghan Northern Alliance commander Ahmed Shah Massoud two days before the September 11 attacks.

In October 2004, a Belgian court sentenced eight Islamic militants to prison terms of up to 5 years for plotting attacks and for links to Al Qaeda. According to prosecutors, Saber Mohammed received three phone calls from senior Al Qaeda figure Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, which he was believed to be forwarding for colleagues.[11] Also convicted was Tarek Maaroufi.

On November 9, 2005, Muriel Degauque, a Belgian convert to Islam, committed a suicide car bomb attack against a U.S. military convoy south of Baghdad.[12]

On November 14, 2015 Belgian police arrest ‘several people’ after searches linked to Paris Brutal Terror attack [13] attacks [14] more arrests expected as links to terrorists Investigation continues.

On March 22, 2016 two blasts rocked the departure hall of Brussels’ Zaventem Airport at about 8am local time, reportedly killing 17 people and leaving dozens injured. [15] Authorities report that more undetonated homemade bombs have been discovered within the terminal. There had been reports of more blasts at the local metro of Brussels. Till the time of writing this update no group has been known to have taken responsibility but it is unknown whether there is an Islamic link. It may be noted that the main fugitive from Islamic extremist attacks in Paris in November 15, Salah Abdeslam, had been arrested in Belgium’s capital after four months at large in Brussels on March 18, 2016.[16] [17]


  1. “Moslims in België per gewest, provincie en gemeente”. 18 September 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  2.  Dutch: Jan Hertogen, In België wonen 628.751 moslims, Indymedia, September 12, 2008
  3.  “Vreemde afkomst 01/01/2012”. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  4.  Dutch: Jan Hertogen, In België wonen 628.751 moslims, Indymedia, September 12, 2008
  5. ‘Voor het eerst meer Marokkaanse dan Italiaanse migranten’ (For the first time more Moroccan than Italian migrants), Het Belang van Limburg, May 21, 2007
  6. Aspecten van Marokkaanse huwelijksmigratie en Marokkaans familierecht”. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  7. (PDF) Archived from the original (PDF) on November 14, 2010. Retrieved January 12,2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. a b c “US State Department, International Religious Freedom Report 2006, Belgium”. 2005-10-02. Retrieved 2012-06-08.
  9. a b Frontline
  10. “Vooral jongere Vlaming ziet islam niet zitten”, Het Laatste Nieuws, 26 October 2006
  11. Arab News, Suspect admits being al-Qaeda link in Belgium, September 15, 2004
  12. Belgian woman bomber identified “Belgian ‘suicide bomber’ is named” Check |url= value (help). BBC. December 2, 2005. Retrieved 2007-04-09.

Further reading

External links


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