Last September Halima Chehaïma, the 18-year old daughter of a Moroccan father and a Flemish mother, was elected Miss Brussels. Until next week Ms Chehaïma was also the absolute favorite of the bookmakers for the election of Miss Belgium next month. She was thought to be an excellent candidate to symbolize the multicultural paradise that Belgium has become. However, a girl’s dream was shattered.
Halima Chehaïma was a controversial candidate. Last October she stood for the Marxist-Leninist Labour Party in the local elections in Molenbeek, the predominantly Muslim Brussels borough where she lives. The party is so marginal that she did not get elected, but her declaration that Israel must be wiped off the map raised the eyebrows of the organizers of the Miss Belgium pageant. What really seems to have ruined her chances, however, is her connection with Bilal Ould Haj, a Belgian criminal of Moroccan origin.
Ould Haj, who has been convicted three times so far for armed robberies, is soon to stand trial for torturing the 84-year old Maria Reyntjes. When he broke into the latter’s home in November 2003 and found only 500 euros (650 dollars) he flew into a rage, broke the old lady’s legs with a hammer and set her hair on fire. At the time he was Chehaïma’s sweetheart, though she claims they were just friends.
Last July Ould Haj was able to escape from jail (easy in Belgium: he said he was someone else and was allowed to walk out). Meanwhile, however, Halima Chehaïma had fallen in love with an Albanian criminal. When Ould Haj encountered the Albanian last week the two men started quarrelling, whereupon the latter knifed the former twice in the neck. Ould Haj survived the assault, was taken to hospital and arrested. The police are currently investigating whether Miss Brussels had been visiting Ould Haj in his Brussels hide-out and whether she helped to keep him out of their hands.