General Information

Kingdom of Belgium

National name: Royaume de Belgique—Koninkrijk België

Land area: 11,672 sq mi (30,230 sq km); total area: 11,787 sq mi (30,528 sq km)

Population (2008 est.): 10,403,951

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Brussels, 1,750,600 (metro area), 981,200 (city proper)

Other large cities: Antwerp, 952,600 (metro area), 450,000 (city proper); Ghent, 226,900; Charleroi, 201,200; Liège, 185,700; Bruges, 117,200

Monetary unit: Euro (formerly Belgian franc)

Languages: Dutch (Flemish) 60%, French 40%, German less than 1% (all official)

Ethnicity/race: Fleming 58%, Walloon 31%, mixed or other 11%

Religion: Roman Catholic 75%, Protestant or other 25%

National Holiday: Ascension to the Throne of King Leopold I, July 21

Literacy rate: 99% (2003 est.)

Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $376 billion; per capita $35,300. Real growth rate: 2.7%. Inflation: 1.8%.

Located in western Europe, Belgium has about 40 mi of seacoast on the North Sea, at the Strait of Dover, and is approximately the size of Maryland. The Meuse and the Schelde, Belgium's principal rivers, are important commercial arteries.

Parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch. Under the 1994 constitution, autonomy was granted to the Walloon region (Wallonia), the Flemish region (Flanders), and the bilingual Brussels-Capital region; autonomy was also guaranteed for the Flemish-, French-, and German-speaking “communities.” The central government retains responsibility for foreign policy, defense, taxation, and social security.

Belgium occupies part of the Roman province of Belgica, named after the Belgae, a people of ancient Gaul. The area was conquered by Julius Caesar in 57–50 B.C., then was overrun by the Franks in the 5th century A.D. It was part of Charlemagne's empire in the 8th century, then in the next century was absorbed into Lotharingia and later into the duchy of Lower Lorraine. In the 12th century it was partitioned into the duchies of Brabant and Luxembourg, the bishopric of Liège, and the domain of the count of Hainaut, which included Flanders. In the 15th century, most of the Low Countries (currently the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg) passed to the duchy of Burgundy and were subsequently inherited by Emperor Charles V. When the latter abdicated in 1555, they went to his son Philippe II, king of Spain. While the northern part, now the Netherlands, gained its independence in the following decades, the southern part remained under Spanish control until 1713, when it was transferred to Austria. During the wars that followed the French Revolution, Belgium was occupied and later annexed to France. But with the downfall of Napoléon, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 reunited the Low Countries under the rule of the king of Holland. In 1830, Belgium rebelled against Dutch rule and declared independence, which was approved by Europe at the London Conference of 1830–1831.

Germany's invasion of Belgium in 1914 set off World War I. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) gave the areas of Eupen, Malmédy, and Moresnet to Belgium. Leopold III succeeded Albert, king during World War I, in 1934. In World War II, Belgium was overwhelmed by Nazi Germany, and Leopold III was held prisoner. When he returned at the government’s invitation in 1950 after a narrowly favorable referendum, riots broke out in several cities. He abdicated on July 16, 1951, and his son, Baudouin, became king. Because of growing opposition to Belgian rule in its African colonies, Belgium granted independence to the Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1960 and to Ruanda-Urundi (now the nations of Rwanda and Burundi) in 1962.

Since 1958, when the European Economic Community was born, Brussels, the country’s capital, has gradually established itself as the de facto capital of what has now become the European Union (EU), a role that became official in Dec. 2000 when the European Council of heads of government decided to hold all its regular meetings in Brussels. As a result, the city has become home not only to nearly 20,000 European civil servants, but to an even more numerous community of lobbyists, lawyers, and other professionals drawn to the EU’s main decision center.

Growing divisions between Flemings and Walloons, and devolution along linguistic lines, culminated in the revised constitution of 1994, which turned Belgium into a federal state with significant autonomy for its three regions and its three language “communities.”

In the 1990s Belgium’s public life was shaken by a number of serious scandals. In 1991, a former deputy prime minister and socialist leader was murdered in a contract killing that took several years to be elucidated. In 1998, along with two other major Belgian politicians, former NATO secretary-general Willy Claes was convicted of bribery. The Dutroux child-sex-and-murder affair in 1996 led to national outrage, compounded by the realization that less official negligence and inefficiency could have saved the lives of several children. It fueled pressure for reform of the political, judicial, and police systems. In 1999, a public health scandal involving dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical, resulted in the unexpected electoral defeat of Christian-Democratic prime minister Jean-Luc Dehaene.

In September 1999, the new prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt of the Liberal Party, cobbled together a coalition of liberals, socialists, and greens, which was continued, without the green parties, after the May 2003 election. His government passed extremely liberal social policies, including the legalization of gay marriage and euthanasia and the partial decriminalization of marijuana. Against the wishes of the prime minister’s party, a parliamentary majority also extended voting rights at local elections to all foreign residents.

In Nov. 2004, a Belgian court ruled that the far-right party Vlaams Blok, a nationalist and anti-immigration party that accounts for over 20% of the vote in Flanders, was guilty of violating antiracism laws, and thus ineligible for funding or television access. The party has since changed its name to Vlaam Belang (“Flemish interest”) and attempted to cleanse its party program.

Prime Minister Verhofstadt resigned in September 2007, after his coalition of liberals and socialists took a drubbing in a general election. He remained in office as caretaker prime minister for more than six months, however, as talks between Flemish-speaking and French-speaking parties on forming a government reached a deadlock, leaving the country in political crisis. At King Albert II's request, Verhofstadt formed an interim coalition government in December 2007.

On March 20, 2008, Yves Leterme was sworn in as prime minister, ending the political crisis that spanned nine months. A new government was formed that includes both Flemish and French-speaking democrats, liberals, and socialists.

On July 14, 2008, after months of unsuccessful negotiations, Belgium's enduring linguistic divide led to the resignation of Prime Minister Yves Leterme. King Albert II did not immediately accept his resignation, leaving the government in a caretaker capacity.

Islamic History and Muslims

Islam in Belgium is relatively new, and is mostly practiced in the Belgian immigrant communities. It is the largest minority religion in Belgium.

It is estimated that between 3 to 4% of the Belgian population is Muslim (98% Sunni) (350 000 to 400 000 people). The majority of Belgian Muslims live in the major cities, such as Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi.

The largest group of immigrants in Belgium are Moroccans, with 264,974 people. The Turks are the third-largest group, and the second-largest Muslim ethnic group, numbering 159,336.

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.

In recent years, stricter immigration laws in the Netherlands have caused an increase in people moving to Belgium for a temporary period, in order to use the more loose Belgian family reunification laws. This has become known as the "Belgian Route".

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

According to a 2005 Free University of Brussels study, about 10% of the Muslim population are "practicing Muslims."

There are estimated to be 328 - 380 mosques in the country.

Although Belgium's high court ruled that a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf could not be denied an identification card, Belgium's parliament has introduced a ban on the wearing of headscarves in schools and public offices. In December 2004, the Belgian government said it was considering a ban on the wearing of any conspicuous religious symbols for civil servants.

In September 2005 the Antwerp Appellate Court 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 $190 (150 euros) for ignoring the ban. Under a 1993 executive order, persons in the streets must be identifiable, based on laws dating back to the Middle Ages. A veil which does not completely cover the body is however allowed.

Notable Belgian Muslims

Dyab Abou Jahjah

Dyab Abou Jahjah (born 24 September 1971) is an Arab political activist who came from Lebanon to Belgium as an asylum seeker. He is the founder and leader of the Arab European League (AEL), a Pan-Arabist movement which claims to struggle for Muslim immigrant interests in Europe. Abou Jahjah is the son of two university lecturers. He was born and grew up southern Lebanon in Hanin which is a few kilometers from the Lebanese-Israeli border. He was a member of the Hezbollah movement.

He requested asylum from Belgium in 1991, claiming that he was fleeing Lebanon due to conflict with leaders of the Hezbollah. In 1996 he became a Belgian citizen.

He later said in a newspaper interview that he had claimed asylum only to trick Belgian authorities and that he simply wanted to leave Lebanon like many other young Lebanese. He believes that while people from the west can travel freely and live in any third world country of their choice, people from the third world should have the same right. He holds a Master after Matser in political science from the Université catholique de Louvain.

Abou Jahjah is an outspoken opponent of assimilation. He wants immigrants to be treated as full citizens that can keep their own culture, rather than being treated as guests. He says he is inspired by the American human rights activist Malcolm X, who was also a Muslim and also opposed assimilation and the melting pot model of integration. He sees the integration of Armenians in Lebanon as the ideal model.

In 2000 Abou Jahjah founded the Arab European League in Antwerp, a city with a large Muslim population, as well as a considerable Jewish population. Vlaams Belang, an anti-immigration party was then the largest party in the city council of Antwerp, but because of the cordon sanitaire against the party they were not part of the ruling coalition. Abou Jahjah was arrested and detained for several days in 2002 after he allegedly organized riots and called for violence. The riots broke out after a 27-year old Belgian-Moroccan was shot by his Flemish neighbor. In december 2007, Abou Jahjah received a one-year prison sentence by the Antwerp correctional court for inciting people to commit violence. He signed for appeal against this verdict and the case will be heard again on the 26th of may 2008.In the meantime a police officer who was watching him the night of the riots, told Knack Magazine that Abou Jahjah is innocent and that evidence against him was fabricated.

Jahjah received a lot of criticism in Belgium for certain of his political ideas and comments. Amongst other things, he has urged Flemish people to adapt to Muslims instead of the other way around, and he pleaded for making Arabic the fourth official language in Belgium (besides the three official languages Dutch, French and German). Some of his ideas are less controversial. He has pleaded for Islamic schools in Belgium, and he has pointed out that wearing the headscarf should be a question of free choice for Muslim women.

In the Netherlands, Abou Jahjah had a row with columnist and film director Theo van Gogh, who was known for grieving Islamic people. After Van Gogh insulted Abou Jahjah by calling him "de pooier van de profeet" ("the pimp of the prophet") in front of a large public, Abou Jahjah left the room. The organisers of the debate sent Van Gogh away, but Abou Jahjah refused to continue the debate with politician Boris Dittrich.

Abou Jahjah was candidate for AEL for the Belgian parliamentary elections in 2003, but the AEL got no seats. Early 2006 Abou Jahjah announced that he will not be leading the AEL any longer, nor hold any leadership post within the movement. He was involved in the creation of a new political party called MDP (Moslim Democratische Partij or "Muslim Democratic Party"), where he also stayed in the background.

In July 2006 he announced that he will be going to Lebanon to participate in the battle against the Israeli forces.  In response, Vlaams Belang leader Filip Dewinter called on the Belgian government to revoke Abou Jahjah's citizenship. in January 2007 he returned permanently to his country of origin.

He published an autobiography titled "Between Two Worlds - the Roots of a Freedom Fight" and a book on the war of july 2006 called "Diary Brussels Beirut" among other books he wrote or that were written about him.

Saïd El Khadraoui

Saïd El Khadraoui (born on 9 April 1975 in Leuven) is a Belgian politician and Member of the European Parliament for Belgium with the Socialist Party – Different, part of the Socialist Group and sits on the European Parliament's Committee on Transport and Tourism.

He is a substitute for the Committee on International Trade, a member of the Delegation to the EU-Armenia, EU-Azerbaijan and EU-Georgia Parliamentary Cooperation Committees and a substitute for the Delegation for relations with the United States.

Nasreddin Lebatelier

Nasreddin Lebatelier is the pseudonym of Jean Michot (also known as Yahya Michot), a Belgian Muslim who gained some notoriety in the late 1990s for publishing Le Statut des Moines in Lebanon in 1997.

This pamphlet included a translation of a short work by the famed 13th-14th century Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyya, called 'On the Status of Monks', which has been read as a call for the killing of Christian monks if they are found outside their monasteries in a Muslim country. Lebatelier's introduction referred to the Algerian Armed Islamic Group's beheading of seven Trappist monks in Tibhirine in 1996. He analysed not only the GIA's justification for the killings but also the Muslim community's consensus (ijmâ') which condemned these assassinations, and explained the religious authoritativeness of such a consensus.

Lebatelier's publication of the pamphlet and the explicit reference to the Algerian massacre led to his removal from a professorship at Louvain and later problems when he was appointed to Oxford. Michot defended himself by stating in reply that in the original publication in 1997 he had not endorsed the killing of monks.

Brussels Mosque: kids at play

Kids at play at the main mosque of Brussels, Belgium, before Friday prayers. My previous trip to the mosque for Friday prayers led to an awful review. On this occasion however the experience was considerably better and a 360 video clip of the interior of the main circular hall can be seen
Built originally in 1897 as the 'Panorama of Cairo', a major part of for the 'World Exhibition of Brussels' the land was donated by King Baudouin to Saudi King Faisal in 1963, it was restored and in 1978 become the principal mosque of Brussels - one amongst the 300+ mosques in Belgium.

Located in Cinquantenaire Park in the East of Brussels European Union district the mosque shares the park with the Royal Museum of Art and History, the Royal Army and Military History Museum, Autoworld and the main, rather stunning arch built in 1880 by King Leopold commemorating the 50th anniversary of the independence of Belgium. 

Masjid Fatih Beringen

Mosque Lebbeke

  Islamic Centers and Organizations

Centre Islamique et Culturel de Belgique, Mosquée de Bruxelles, Brussels
URL:   Phone: 0032.2.7352173

Al Fatha Mosque, Leuven
Phone: 016-208702

Masjid Alabadin Brussels, Brussels, Belgium
Phone: 0032-02/5114837

Diyanet Camisi-Mosque, Antwerpen, Antwerpen
Phone: 03 288 58 31

Centre islamic et culturel de belgique ligue du monde islamique, Bruxelles, Belgium
Phone: 02-7352173

Mian Mode, Brussels, JETTE

Dr. Abdullah, Gent

Al- Mouwahiddine Mosquée, Liege, Belgium
Phone: 00 32(4) 342 90 18

Jongeren Voor Islam, Antwerpen, Antwerpen


Yardim Islamic Mosque, Beringen
  Abdulhamid Mosque, Charleroi
  Aksemseddin Mosque, Quaregnon
  Aksemseddin Mosque, Blegny
  Al fath Islamic association, Bruxelles
  Al Fatha Mosque, Leuven
  Al Imam Al Bokhari, Bruxelles
  Al mohajirine mosquée, Brussels
  Al- Mouwahiddine Mosquée, Liege
  Alaadin Mosque, Marchienne-au-Pont
  Albanian muslim cultural association, Bruxelles
  Alburaq Mosque, Mechelen
  AlSalam (Peace) Mosque, Antwerp
  Antwerp Islamic Association,, Antwerpen
  Arrahmane Mosque, Antwerpen
  Assafa Mosque, LIEGE
  Assalaam, Kiel
  Association des musulmans d'arlon (AMA), Arlon
  association islamique et culturelle de tournai, Tournai
  Association Musulmane et Culturelle Albanaise de Belgique, Brussels
  Assouna Mosque, Bruxelles
  Ayasofya Mosque, Mol
  AYASOFYA Mosque, Hasselt
  B.T.I.D.V. Diyanet Vakfi Mosque, Liege
  Bader, Kiel
  Bangladech Islamic Culturel Center, Bruxelles
  Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa Mosque, Malmedy
  Bastogne Turk Mosque, Bastogne
  Belgium Islamic cultural Center, Brugge
  Belgium Turkish Islamic center, Louviere
  Bertrix Mosque, Bertrix
  BTIDV , Islamic center, Virton
  Cami Yaptirma ve Yasatma Denegi, Bruxelles
  Campus praying room - K.U.Leuven, Leuven
  Centre Al Abidine, Bruxelles
  Centre Culturel d'Ataturk, Bruxelles
  Centre islamic et culturel de belgique ligue du monde islamique, Bruxelles
  Centre Islamique de Renaix, Renaix
  Centre Islamique et Culturel de Belgique, Mosquée de Bruxelles, Brussels
  Centre Islamique et Culturel de Liège, Liege
  Complexe Educatif et Culturel Islamique de Verviers-Mosquée As-Sahaba, Verviers
  Daral ALLAH Mosque, Antwerp
  Darou khoudos mosque, Antwerp
  darou khoudos(dar el kodos)mosque, Antwerp
  Darul Ulum Camia Islamia, Bruxelles
  Diyanet Camisi-Mosque, Antwerpen
  El Mouhsinine Islamic center, Bruxelles
  El Ouahda Mosque, Houthalen
El Salam cultural association, Antwerpen

  A.M.M.B. Association des musulmans de Mons-Borinage, Saint-Ghislain
  Abattoir de Volaille Islamique, Bruxelles
  Al Ma'rifa Women's Organisation, Bruxelles
  Al-Anon, Antwerpen
  Al-Anon ASBL, Bruxelles
  Al-Aqsa, Bruxelles
  Alfajiri ASBL Association, Bruxelles
  ALKHAYRIA BELGICA asbl, Bruxelles
  Ars Islamica SC, Bruxelles
  ASBL ANNAJAH, Bruxelles
  ASBL le Jardin Des Jeunes, Brussels
  Ass Jeunesse Islam, Verviers
  Association des Jeune Musulmane en Belgie, Bruxelles
  Association Renaissance, Brussels
  Center d education et culturel de jeunesss section foundation Al Haramain Belgigue, Brussels
  Centre Culturel Arabe en Pays de Liège, Liege
  Comité de Concertation CdC, objectif: faire le pont entre les musulmans et le monde politique Belge, Bruxelles
  Comité de Concertation CdC, objectif: faire le pont entre les musulmans et le monde politique Belge, Brussels
  dar assanabel ( maison sanabel), Bruxelles Capitale
  De-Koepel bekeerlingen, Antwerpen
  Executieve van de Moslims van Belgie, Brussels
  Fondation Réligieuse Islamique ASBL, Bruxelles
  GILLYPHONE, Charleroi
  HIDÂYA Youth Organisation, Sint-Niklaas
  IMSAL, Louvain
  Islam Cemiyeti Camii, Bruxelles
  Islam-Renaix, Renaix
  Islamic Association, Farciennes
  Islamic Association, Louviere
  Islamic community, Mol
  Islamic Events Belgium, Brussels
  Islamic Food Council of Europe, Bruxelles
  Islamic Information Center, Antwerp
  Islamic organisation Oostende, Oostende
  Islamic Union, Sambre
  Islamic Union Mosque, Antwerpen
  Islamiques Benhammou, Bruxelles
  Islamitische Culturele Ontmoetingsvereniging, Mol
  Islamitische Ontwikkelingsvereniging, Heusden
  Islamitische Vereniging, Bruxelles
  Jeunesse Pro-active, Verviers
  Jongeren Voor Islam, Antwerpen
  Khaatem-e-Naboohat Centre, Antwerpen

Al Ghazali School, Bruxelles
  ALKHAYRIA BELGICA Academy, Bruxelles
  EL MOUHSININE, Brussels Capital Region
  Institut Islamique, Bruxelles
Islamitische Universiteit van Europa afdeling Belgie, Gent

   Muslim Owned Business

A.T.C. (Alhamdulillah trade center), Brussels
  Al Andalous ASBL, Bruxelles
  AL FAOUZ, Bruxelles Capitale
  Algist Bruggeman, Gent
  Bombay Inn, Brussels
  Dr. Abdullah, Gent
  Gilly Bazar scrl, Charleroi
  Gilly Bazard, Gilly
  internet schop bismillah, Borgerhout
  Khan Muhammad imp.exp., Maaseik
  Le Sable ol Orient, Brussels
  LIBRAIRIE ALMOUSTAFA, Bruxelles Capitale
  Mediteranee, Leuven
  Mekkaboekhandel, Gent
  Mian Mode, Brussels
  Mumtaz, Brussels
  Pacha Mobella, Chatelineau
  Salam Bombay, Brussels
  Scholler NV, Beerse
  SweetHalal, Brussels
  Vertaler/translator, Leuven
Vital & Zoon N.V. - S.A., Nevele

Islam in Belgium ( , September, 2008).
Info please ( ,   September, 2008).
Islam Finder (  , September, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Belgium, September 2008.