This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of March, a monthly overview of the most significant results of our monitoring of traditional and new media in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and the United Kingdom.
Date: 6 March 2019
Media Outlet: La Libre Belgique, centrist francophone daily newspaper
Authors: Lahcen Hammouch and Sébastien Boussois
Headline: “Decolonizing the Great Mosque of Brussels is Urgent”
Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article is about Brussel’s Grand Mosque. It is an opinion piece by Lahcen Hammouch, the director of Al Mouwating TVand Sébastien Boussois, a political science researcher at the Université Libre de Bruxelles. The piece focuses on two NGOs looking to take over the management of the Mosque, who are referred to as “Belgian Muslims” and the “Saudi-influences Muslims.” The authors of the piece are critical of Saudi influences in Belgian mosques, an influence which they claim spreads Salafist Wahhabi ideology. They allege that this ideology has been the direct cause of violent attacks, such as the one in Brussels in 2016. The NGO with alleged connections to Saudi Arabia are referred to as the “dark opponents” in the text as well as “obscure competitors.”
Myth debunked: The main issue with this article is the generalisations made between the so called “Belgian Muslims” and “Saudi Muslims.” The authors of the article make clear that the “Belgian Muslims” are the ‘good Muslims”, and the “Saudi Muslims” the ‘bad’ ones. Of course, the topic is much more complex than that and making such a generalisation makes it easier to discriminate against so called ‘bad Muslims’. Critiquing Saudi influence is newsworthy and valid; however, using such commentary to call out a whole group of worshippers brands them collectively as bad and sets a dangerous precedent. Referring to this group as ‘obscure’ and ‘dark’ paints a scary image for the reader without providing much more supporting information or context, leaving the reader to assuming there is a big threat looming. The article also implies that Salafist Wahhabi ideology has direct links to the terror attacks, stigmatising a large group of Muslims. Again, while critique is valid and needed, we must always remember not to judge a group by the actions of a few.
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