Speaking at the annual event of IJzerwake, an organisation uniting radical Flemish nationalists, chairman Wim de Wit delivered a violent anti-Muslim, homophobic, racist, sexist, and antiziganist speech.
Wim de Wit said that criticism against certain groups is not allowed in the Flanders: “in principle, freedom of expression still applies, except when it comes to Muslims, negroes, holebi [LGB people], transgender people, transvestites, gypsies, feminists and certain politicians.” He further stated that Muslims in Europe live in a “parallel society” and claimed that Muslim men in Europe are able to get away with the mistreatment of women, as our freedom of religion laws allow them to mentally and physically mistreat women.
EUJS, Get The Trolls Out! partner in Belgium, sent a complaint letter to Wim de Wit to express their concern about his words and to highlight the inconsistency between his anti-democratic statements and the Flemish democratic values.
“When you say that “Muslim people live in a parallel society” you suggest that Muslim people are not part of Flemish society and subsequently they should not be considered by Flemish politicians and political institutions,” the complaint letter said.
EUJS pointed out how Wim de Wit’s words imply that Flanders should deal with Islam in the region without considering Muslim people as part of the region. This is in contrast with the European, Belgian and Flemish democratic values which are about fostering debates within its society as one of the basis of a democratic consensus.
The complaint letter also stated that Freedom of Expression has limits set in the law and that it can be restricted on the basis of the “respect of the rights or reputations of others”. EUJS’s argument is consistent with International and Flemish laws such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations states (Article 19 – 3.a), and the “Anti Racisme en Xenophobie” law (1981, updated in 2007) and applicable in the Flemish community. According to the latter, Wim de Wit is at risk of imprisonment of a month to a year and a fine of fifty euros to a thousand euros3 (“beschermde criteria” stated in article 20).
IJzerwake’s annual event is organised to commemorate the victims of the two World Wars, but is also largely a place for political figures to share their views on Flemish independence and other current topics. Many of the IJzerwake members are from far-right political party Vlaams Belang.
Doorbraak, a Belgian opinion website, reported the event and the speech by Wim de Wit without any critique. The article is framed in a way that suggests the author and publication agree with his stance. EUJS sent a complaint to the news outlet Doorbraak, highlighting how the article does not present any alternative view or voice on the matter. This creates the impression that Wim de Wit’s is the only truth on this topic, and that there is nothing further to discuss. EUJS sent a complaint letter to Doorbraak, but the media outlet has not issued a response.