A country known as the capital of the European Union, consisting of three regions, using three official languages, and famous for its chocolates. Belgium is also an important European country where Muslims choose to live. Let’s start learning about the Muslim population in Belgium, their rate of growth, the process of Islamization, renowned mosques, significant personalities, and the challenges they face.
What is the Muslim population in Belgium?
Obtaining precise results regarding the Muslim population in Belgium is not currently possible. The most significant reason for this is the absence of questions about individuals’ religious beliefs in the population censuses conducted in Belgium. However, what we can definitively say is that the Muslim population in Belgium is continually increasing. This growth is influenced by both birth rates and migration to the country. In 2014, the Muslim population reached approximately 650,000, making up about 6% of the country’s population. By 2017, this number had approached 800,000.
When did Islam reach Belgium?
Islam reached Belgium in the 1910s with North African Muslim immigrants. There isn’t much information available from that period, but after World War II, the number of Muslims in Belgium was only a few hundred. After 1960, following various political and economic agreements between Belgium and newly independent Islamic countries, Belgium allowed thousands of Muslim workers to settle in the country. Most of the immigrants were from Morocco and Turkey, but there were also more than 3,000 Albanian-origin Yugoslav Muslims who fled communism. They were among the first Muslims in Belgium.
Which are the most famous mosques in Belgium?
The Brussels Grand Mosque, the oldest and largest mosque in Brussels, was initially constructed in 1880 in the “Maqribi” style to create the “Oriental Pavilion” for the Brussels National Exhibition. The building was converted into a place of worship for Muslims in 1969. After a long period of reconstruction, it was officially opened as a mosque in 1978. The Brussels Grand Mosque is unique among mosques in the European geography, as it was converted from a different type of structure. There are also many mosques and prayer rooms built by the Turkish community. The Selimiye Mosque, the country’s first mosque with Belgian and Ottoman architectural lines, is another notable mosque.
Who are the prominent individuals and institutions working for Islam in Belgium?
Belgium Diyanet Foundation
In Belgium, most of the work related to Islam is carried out through cultural centers and associations, with individuals mainly continuing their work through these organizations. Therefore, there isn’t a prominent individual known for their individual efforts.
However, notable institutions involved in important work include:
Belgium Islamic Cultural Center
The center is significantly influenced by Saudi Arabia, as Rabitat al-Alam al-Islami (World Muslim League) covers all its expenses.
Council of Scholars
Although considered the representative of all Muslims in Belgium, its powers are based on political decisions and have not gained full recognition status.
Islamic Cultural Center Library
Holding approximately 5,000 books, the library provides services throughout the week.
Belgium Turkish Islamic Diyanet Foundation
What challenges do Muslims in Belgium face?
Muslims living in Belgium face various challenges on multiple fronts, which are increasing and intensifying day by day. The primary factor contributing to these challenges is the attitudes of the Belgian population and authorities towards Islam. Islamophobia is rapidly growing in Belgium, leading to Muslim communities facing official and unofficial physical and psychological pressures in various areas such as socioeconomics, healthcare, and education.
Discrimination and exclusion are not limited to religious beliefs but also extend to race and skin color, affecting foreign individuals in this country. Among Muslims, the most significant victims of oppression are Black Muslims and Muslim women. In addition, although there have been developments in national laws regarding religious freedom, many local governments insist on not implementing these laws.