Monday, 30 September 2019 10:43

Belgium – depicts all Salafists as violent

The Belgian news outlet published a fear-mongering article spreading harmful generalisations about Salafism in Belgium and the Netherlands. This is Belgium’s media monitoring highlight for September.

This article is part of the Media Monitoring Highlights of September, 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.

image4Date of publication: 11 September 2019

Media Outlet:, La Dernière Heure, a French-language daily newspaper published in Belgium


Headline: “In the Netherlands, in Salafist schools students learn that non-Muslims deserve the death penalty”

Description of the anti-Muslim content: This article claims that Salafist schools in the Netherlands are causing concern because they teach pupils  to “refuse to be part of Dutch society” and that “non-Muslim people deserve the death penalty”. This emerged from a joint investigation by the newspaper NRC and the TV show "Nieuwsuur". The article also states that according to the Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis (OCAM) in Belgium, several state departments in charge of security “have kept an eye on Salafist members” for years. However, the article continues, OCAM believes that the situation is less worrying in Belgium than in the Netherlands, “where there are indeed mosques clearly claiming to be Salafist”. The article mentions that “state security figures from April show that our country is home to hundreds of Salafist organizations (mosques, religious centres, schools)”, but that “there is no data on how much the phenomenon is growing but the number seems to be increasing.”

Myth debunked: This article presents a superficial and misleading understanding of Salafism, by regarding it as a movement based on hatred towards the West. In fact, Salafism is an orthodox Sunni reform movement that emerged at the turn of the twentieth century, encouraging emulation of the first followers of the Prophet Muhammad, the “salaf” or predecessors. According to the Oxford Islamic Studies Online, this movement emphasises the “restoration of Islamic doctrines to pure form, adherence to the Quran and Sunnah, rejection of the authority of later interpretations, and maintenance of the unity of ummah.” The article by wrongly depicts all Salafists as terrorists. Many European governments too generally see Salafists through the lens of counter-terrorism. This is a distorted view of this movement. While some terrorists do identify as Salafi, anthropological fieldwork in the Salafi movement in the Netherlands, including an article by Dr. Ineke Roex, shows that important sections of the Salaf movement distance themselves from violent extremism in Europe and respect democratic authority. Rather than considering Salafism as whole as a security threat, the article should have stated that a specific school in the Netherlands was found disseminating violent ideas, but that it is not representative of all the Salafist schools. The generalisations in this article misinforms readers and spread fears about Muslims who belong to this group which contributes to their stigmatisation. The Get the Trolls Out! partner in Belgium, ENORB, has submitted a complaint to requesting significant edits to the article. 

More to read:

Islam researcher: Not all Salafists are the same 

Don’t Blame ‘Wahhabism’ for Terrorism

The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman: Paths to Conversion


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