Today, some 80,000 people participated in a silent march in Brussels to commemorate 17 year old Joe Van Holsbeeck, who was knifed on 12 April because he refused to hand over his MP3 player to two North African youths. The murder happened during the evening rush hour in a crowded Brussels central station. The murderers were filmed by security cameras, but it took a full week before the authorities released the footage. The assassins are still at large.
This BBC report about the march, which was the largest protest in the country since 1996 when 300,000 marched through Brussels in anger over the murdering of children, does not mention the ethnicity of the assassins, though many Belgians are worried about the extremely violent mentality of North African youth gangs. [update 24 April, 7:30am GMT: the BBC has added a few final paragraphs mentioning "racial tension"] In fact, the initiative for the march came from Fouad Ahidar, a Moroccan-born Flemish member of the Brussels regional parliament, who said last week that many immigrants are equally worried about violent Moroccan youth gangs.
Ahidar, a father of five, already called for a protest march on 15 April, saying that if the victims had been immigrants and not Belgians, “or even if an immigrant just gets a few kicks from police officers, half of Brussels would be on the streets in solidarity with the victim.” According to the Moroccan-born MP, anti-Belgian racism is rife among Muslim street gangs. “This murder stinks of racism,” he said. “There is a growing group of criminal Moroccan and Turkish youths who go after victims who look like infidels. We have to fight racism in all its varieties, whether by the immigrants or the native community.” What Ahidar says is common knowledge but only he may say so. If a native Belgian makes such comments he or she risks being taken to court for racism by the authorities’ racism watchdog CEOOR, an instrument used by the government parties to silence political opponents.
In response to Ahidar's appeal many immigrant organisations had called on their members to participate in the protest. Because the BBC report does not mention the ethnicity of the murderers it also has to omit the presence of immigrants in the protest. “There are many Muslims here,” imam Nordine Taouil told Flemish radio and television today. He stressed that many imams had called upon the faithful to be present. “We are here to show that we oppose violence.”
Murder Shocks Brussels While PM and Cardinal Blame Victims, 19 April 2006
Van Holsbeeck Murder: Bending Over Backwards in Brussels, 20 April 2006