Brussels, the capital of Belgium, prides itself on being the capital of Europe and of the Atlantic Alliance. The city, where the European Union and NATO headquarters are located, has no fewer than three U.S. ambassadors: one to Belgium, one to the EU and one to NATO. Like Washington, Brussels hosts hundreds of protest demonstrations each year. During the past six years Freddy Thielemans, the mayor of Brussels, allowed 3,500 demonstrations. He banned only six, including, last year, a march of Kurdish nationalists belonging to a terrorist organization. As a rule everyone – except criminals – is allowed to demonstrate in Brussels.
Two weeks ago Mr. Thielemans issued his sixth ban. “Stop the Islamization of Europe” (SIOE), a pan-European organization led by a Dane, an Englishman and a German, was denied permission to demonstrate on September 11 against the introduction of Shariah law in Europe. Many European countries are introducing elements of Shariah law, such as granting welfare benefits to polygamous families, prohibiting private soup kitchens from distributing pork, banning Muhammad cartoons and organizing separate swimming hours for Muslim women in public pools.
SIOE planned to bring 20,000 to 50,000 participants to Brussels from 26 European countries. The march would end in front of the European Parliament building with one minute of silence for the victims of the September 11 terror attacks in America. According to the mayor, however, the latter is an indication of SIOE’s criminal nature.
“I decided to forbid the September 11 demonstration,” the mayor wrote, because “First and foremost the organizers have chosen the symbolic date of 9/11. The intention is obviously to confound the terrorist activities of Muslim extremists on the one hand and Islam as a religion and all Muslims on the other hand. [...] Such incitement to discrimination and hatred, which we usually call racism and xenophobia, is forbidden by a considerable number of international treaties and is punished by our penal laws and by the European legislation. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly pronounced judgments condemning this type of acts.”
The mayor concluded: “With regard to the planned demonstration of September 11 [...] my mind is made up. And my decision is final: it will not take place.”
SIOE is not at all a racist organization, but a broad group of people who want to preserve Europe’s Judeo-Christian civilization, its freedoms and values. It intends to proceed with its demonstration and turn it into a “birthday party” for Mr. Thielemans, who was born on Sept. 11, 1943. The mayor’s words, however, are very clear. Anyone who intends to participate in the September 11 SIOE demo is a criminal under Belgian and European law: he or she is a racist and a xenophobe. The Brussels police, usually very soft on crime, might not look on passively next September 11, when “racists” and “Islamophobes” try to celebrate the mayor's birthday with one minute of silence for the September 11 victims.
It is equally clear, however, that the true reason why Mr. Thielemans banned the SIOE demonstration is his fear of upsetting the large Muslim population of Brussels. Over half the inhabitants of the Brussels region are of foreign origin, many of them from Morocco. Mr. Thielemans’s Parti Socialiste (PS) caters for the Muslim immigrants. The PS is the largest party in Brussels. Ten of its 17 members on Brussels's municipal council are Muslims. They do not tolerate criticism of their religion and they approve of the “Islamization of Europe” – a process which, as Mr. Thielemans's ban shows, is well on its way in the “capital of Europe.”
Though Mr. Thielemans has forbidden the SIOE demonstration, he gave permission for a demonstration in Brussels on Sept. 9 by United for Truth (UfT), a group of conspiracy theorists who claim that the attacks of September 11 on the WTC towers in New York and on the Pentagon were organized by the Bush administration. Before giving permission for the UfT demonstration the mayor’s office checked that the demonstration would not address religious topics. “The biggest issue was if there was any possible conflict [of our demonstration] with religion,” UfT writes on its Web site. “As we just base ourselves on facts and political issues, we have no intention to discriminate or promote any religion.” Obviously, the religion one is not allowed to discriminate against in Brussels is Islam. In April 2005 Mr. Thielemans himself clearly illustrated this. Upon hearing the news of the death of Pope John Paul II he ordered “Champagne for everyone!”
Americans should ask themselves whether a city with a mayor like Mr. Thielemans deserves to be the capital of the Atlantic Alliance. A few years ago, when Belgium threatened to take President Bush and then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair to court as war criminals for the invasion of Iraq, America threatened to move NATO to the erstwhile capital of the Warsaw Pact. That city would be deserving of such an honor.
This piece was originally published in The Washington Times on August 29, 2007 .