Faouzia Hariche (38) is the acting mayor (or “bourgmestre” – burgomaster, from the Dutch burgemeester) of Brussels, the capital of Belgium and of the European Union. Ms Hariche was born in Algeria in 1967. She moved to Belgium when she was seven years old. Though Brussels was historically a Dutch-speaking city and is also considered to be the capital of Flanders, the Dutch-speaking northern half of Belgium, the city was forcibly “frenchified” after the establishment of Belgium in 1830 by French radicals who used French-speaking Wallonia, Belgium’s southern half, as a power base to conquer Flanders.
Since 1830 the Dutch character of Brussels has been deliberately eradicated, although the mayors of the city have usually been bilingual, speaking French as well as Dutch. Ms Hariche, who replaces Freddy Thielemans whilst he is on sick leave, is bilingual too, speaking French and Arabic but no Dutch.
This has upset many Flemings, who no longer feel at home in their own city with a mayor who does not speak their language. The Belgian regime has encouraged North African immigrants, who come from former French colonies, to apply for Belgian citizenship. This was done in a deliberate attempt to force the Flemings into an ever shrinking minority position in what used to be one of their most important towns. Five years ago Claude Eerdekens, the then chairman of the Naturalisation Commission of the Belgian House of Representatives, admitted that his commission was granting citizenship to foreigners without investigating the applicants’ backgrounds because most of the immigrants speak French rather than Dutch. “Our Commission does more for the frenchification of Brussels than the Flemings can ever do to prevent it,” Mr Eerdekens boasted in an interview in the newspaper Le Matin of 9 February 2001.
The perfidious Eerdekens gained global notoriety last year when as sports minister he falsely accused the Russian tennis player Svetlana Kuznetsova of using illegal stimulants. The Russian tennis federation decried him for “breaking every ethical rule in the book” and the World Tennis Association (WTA) said that it had “never seen a more disgraceful and irresponsible act by a sports official, [...] an egregious breach of ethical standards.”
Like Eerdekens, Faouzia Hariche is a member of the Belgian Parti Socialiste (PS). After 175 years of Belgian rule Brussels has almost completely lost its original Dutch (Flemish) identity. It has been left with an identity vacuum, which is now being filled up by a Muslim identity. While this process is taking place in many West European cities, in Brussels it is the result of a deliberate policy. The Belgian establishment, which includes the Socialists, is afraid of the growing electoral appeal of the Vlaams Belang (VB), a party which aims for Flemish independence, and there are municipal elections in the Fall of this year. The VB is currently the biggest party in Flanders (and Belgium) and all other parties are teaming up in an effort to stop it. Leona Detiège, the Socialist mayor of Antwerp, said in an interview in Knack Magazine on 13 September 2000, that immigrants should be granted citizenship (and the subsequent right to participate in elections) on the grounds that “the VB is currently overrepresented as the immigrants are not allowed to vote.”
In an attempt to persuade the Muslim immigrants to vote for them, the Socialists are selling out to them. Particularly Philippe Moureaux, the leader of the Brussels PS and the mayor of Molenbeek, a Brussels suburb with one of the largest concentrations of North African immigrants, prides himself on this. Moureaux has abandoned Molenbeek to Islamic “youths.” Last year he declared that it was “not expedient” for the police to patrol in Muslim quarters and he prohibited police officers from drinking coffee or eating sandwiches on the streets during ramadan. Moureaux hopes to get the Muslim vote during the municipal elections.
When Freddy Thielemans, the Brussels mayor and also a PS politician, had to go to hospital in December, the official procedure would have been to replace him by his first deputy. The PS opted for Ms Hariche, who was only the 7th in line, because she is a Muslim. Hariche immediately appointed Mohamed Laghmiche, her own husband, as the well-paid director of one of the city’s heavily subsidized non-profit youth organisations over which she presides.
Nepotism and cronyism is a wide-spread phenomenon among Belgian Socialists. Many of its ministers are children of former ministers (for instance Laurette Onkelinx, the minister of justice; Freya Van Den Bossche, the budget minister; Peter Van Velthoven, the labour minister; Bruno Tobback, the minister of pensions and the environment)
And socialist ministers have often been involved in suspicious deals.
Another Socialist member of the government is Turkish born Emir Kir, the Brussels secretary for public monuments. Last Tuesday the Muslims celebrated the major Islamic festival of Eid-al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) when most Muslim families slaughter a sheep. The slaughtering must be carried out according to ritual, without anaesthesizing the animal. Belgian law forbids the slaughtering of animals at home. Even killing your own poultry is forbidden by law. Chickens in Belgium have to be killed after preliminary anaesthesia in an official abattoir or by a licensed butcher.
During Eid-al-Adha, an estimated 20,000 sheep are slaughtered in Brussels, of which less than 10% in official establishments. Secretary Kir told the Brussels Parliament that the religious beliefs of the Muslims have to be taken into account. The authorities deliberately failed to interfere, even in situations such as the one on this picture, taken last Tuesday in the Brussels suburb of Neder-over-Heembeek. This is Brussels, the capital of Europe, in the year 2006. At present 14 of the 26 representatives of the Parti Socialiste, the largest party in the Brussels regional parliament, are Muslim immigrants (ten of Moroccan origin, two Turkish, one Tunisian and one from the West-African state of Guinea).
The Muslim influence on Belgian politics has tangible consequences. Secretary Kir wants to demolish the monument commemorating the 1915 Turkish genocide of 1.5 million Armenian Christian civilians. According to Kir, who is responsible for public monuments, the “so-called Armenian genocide” is a hoax, concocted by “imperialists.” Last year Kir lodged a complaint against two journalists who had criticized him for taking part in a May 2004 demonstration to demand the destruction of the Armenian monument. The journalists had described the secretary as a “genocide denier.” On November 14, 2005, a Brussels court ruled against the PS politician, confirming that the Armenian Genocide was a crime against humanity.
The verdict said that the journalists were “by no means wrong” in branding Emir Kir as a genocide denier. It went on to note that this type of clear labelling serves the common good and advances the purposes established by Belgian law to penalize genocide denial. Secretary Kir has appealed against the verdict. Genocide denial is a criminal offence in Belgium. Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian minister of Justice and the PS deputy Prime Minister, told the Belgian Senate on 17 November that “additional legal and historic research” is needed to ascertain what really happened in Armenia in 1915. Clearly, courting the Muslim vote has led the Belgian government to doubt the Armenian genocide. How long will it take before Belgian parties start questioning the Shoah in order to attract Muslim votes?