This morning the Belgian federal police conducted searches in 17 houses in Brussels. One of the buildings was the seat of the Centre Islamique Belge (CIB) in the Brussels borough of Molenbeek, where two people were arrested and several documents and personal computers were confiscated. A website close to the CIB recently called for the assassination of Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Interior Minister. “We must fight people who reject our democratic values and abuse religion for radical goals,” Laurette Onkelinx, the Belgian Justice minister said. The authorities added that this was the first tangible result of an “anti-radical action plan” aimed i.a. against websites inciting hatred and violence. The plan was approved by the Belgian government last… March 25, 2005.
The head of the CIB is Bassam Ayachi, a Frenchman of Syrian origin who has been living in Molenbeek since the 1990s. Ayachi was a contact of the Tunisian Belgian Abdessatar Dahamane, who assassinated General Ahmad Shah Massood, the leader of the anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan, in a suicide attack on 9 September 2001. The Massood assassination, two days before the attacks by al-Qa’eda on New York and the Pentagon, was said to be intended as “a gift” to Osama bin Laden. According to the authorities Ayachi has been under police surveillance for some time, but he was not interrogated today because they had not been able to locate him. Moreover, the authorities stressed that the CIB is not suspected of terrorism, only of extremism. The two people arrested this morning are illegal immigrants.
Meanwhile Monsignor Paul Van den Berghe, the Catholic bishop of Antwerp, is being criticized for his appeal to Catholic primary and secondary schools to participate in a protest demonstration on 15 February in support of illegal immigrants. Yesterday the 73-year old bishop declared that “Everybody has a right to migrate, whether for political or economic reasons […]. Migrating is a basic human right, like the right not to have to migrate. Everyone has the right to raise his children in a safe and prosperous country.”
Patrick Dewael, the Belgian minister of the Interior, recently announced that he wants to repatriate people who have entered Belgium without legal papers. “The minister has a different responsibility than I,” the bishop said, “but I have my opinion as a bishop, as a Christian and above all as a citizen.”
In Germany this week the Union of Teachers voted to introduce the language policy of six Berlin secondary schools on a national level. The schools oblige all children to speak only German during school hours, including on the playground. According to some politicians and immigrant groups this is discrimination and a violation of the constitution. “Children should not be forbidden from talking in their mother tongue,” said Eren Ünsal, spokesperson of the Turkish League. Many immigrant parents, however, seem to have a different opinion. The first school to introduce the “German only” rule was the Herbert-Hoover-Realschule. Since the school introduced the rule one year ago the number of enrollments has risen significantly.
Maria Böhmer, the German Secretary of State for Migration, Refugees and Integration, told Die Welt yesterday that she encourages schools to adopt the same rule. The Christian-Democrat politician said she is in favour of “offensive integration” policies in which “taboos will not be tolerated.” Ms Böhmer said it would be a misconception of tolerance if there was no insistence on the knowledge of German. “The aim is that those who want to live here can participate fully in our society. Language is the key to this. […] This is exactly the reason why many Turkish parents find this school attractive.”
In the Netherlands the City Council of Rotterdam announced last week that it wants immigrants to speak Dutch on the streets. It is also asking them to raise their children predominantly in Dutch. The demand is formulated in a so-called “Rotterdam code” that was presented last Thursday. The City Council requests all Rotterdammers to adhere to the seven principles in the code, which also include respect for women, homosexuals and people who do not believe in God.
Last Saturday Rita Verdonk, the Dutch minister of Integration, told party members at a convention of her Liberal Party that she wants to write a similar code for the whole country. “It is very important that one speaks Dutch in the streets,” Ms Verdonk said. “Many people send me e-mails to say that they do not feel at ease in the streets. I want rules of conduct about what we, the Dutch, feel is important.” The French leftist newspaper Le Monde claims that Ms Verdonk is “the most hated politician in Holland,” which according to Theodore Dalrymple, an able translater of Le Monde-speak, “means that she is by far the most popular politician in the country.”
In neighbouring Belgium Chokri Mahassine, a Socialist member of the Flemish regional parliament, opposed the introduction of a similar language rule in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of the country. “This is too idiotic for words. Pure nonsense,” he said about Verdonk's proposal. “The Netherlands have developed from a dictatorship of tolerance to a dictatorship of intolerance. This is an unworthy proposal for a democracy. It is nobody’s business what language I speak in the street.”
An internet poll of the Flemish popular newspaper Het Nieuwsblad today shows that 59.88% of the readers feel that the “authorities should compel immigrants to speak Dutch in the streets.” A similar poll in the quality newspaper De Standaard shows that 55.10% of the readers “at times feel uneasy when immigrants use their own language in public.”