Controversy over praying imam in Brussels Parliament


A video of a Pakistani Imam singing a sura from the Quran in the Parliament of Brussels is causing an uproar.

The incident happened during a ceremony honouring Brussels residents of Pakistani origin, celebrating “citizens who have beautifully integrated into our social and economic landscape”.

A man named Muhammad appeared reciting Quranic verses. In the past, he has been associated with radical figures.

Idit Rosenzweig-Abu, ambassador of Israel to Belgium, noted that Ansar Butt “chose to recite parts of Surah ‘Al-Ahzab’, a Surah about a battle between Muslims and Jews.”

The ambassador notes that this is “a Surah that explicitly (verse 26) calls for the killing and taking captive of Jews.”

“He could have chosen anything else. A frightening symbolic message to anyone who knows the Quran, straight from the parliament podium. In Brussels parliament, a city with 18,000 Jews who are already experiencing increased antisemitism and fear.”

Rachid Madrane, the president of the regional parliament, claims that the video was shot on January 13 during a visit that wasn’t coordinated by the parliament itself.

Muhammad Ansar Butto was a member of a delegation sent by the Friends of Brussels Organisation, at the request of MP Hasan Koyuncu (PS).  Madrane states there were other people there with different philosophical and religious orientations.

It was a group visit, one of up to ten thousand a year. All elected representatives have the right to organise them, without the request being referred to the Bureau of Parliament, the management body of the institution.

However, Madrane said on behalf of the Bureau, that “it is imperative that Parliament remain neutral”, something he will explicitly warn about going forward.

The opposition is demanding clarity on the circumstances of this visit.

Nawal Ben Hamou, Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities, and a member of the Socialist Party, was present.

“During the award ceremony, there were songs that seemed to be religious. The Secretary of State then decided to leave the hemicycle, because she believes that a parliament – even if it must be open to society in all its diversity – is not an ordinary place, but a state institution in its own right,” her spokesperson told Bruzz.

Many politicians took offence at the religious connotations in the heart of the secular legislative chamber.

Centre-right MP Theo Francken (N-VA) shared images Friday on social media, stating, “The socialists fought the power of the Catholic Church for decades, but for Islam they are rolling out the red carpet.”

He further highlights that communists are topping the polls in Brussels, a “success due to their extreme Israel-hatred and pro-Islam views”. Francken pointed out that party leader Hedebouw suggested he wants to allow the hijab for eight-year old girls in school

“With the secular wing of the Brussels PS [Socialist Party] losing the battle, the PS is bowing deeper than ever before to the favour of Muslims in our capital. This leads to such unseen Soumission [submission] scenes.”

Francken quipped that “while he is in the parliament, perhaps the assembly could question him about his stance on homosexuality, blasphemy and women’s rights?” and ends with,” The once-liberal Brussels seems like a lost city. On all counts.”

Denis Ducarme, MP and former minister in the Belgian government, called it a “scandal”. “Communitarianism no longer has limits in the PS! This party is dangerous for the principle of separation of Church and State.”