Belgium to cancel license of Turkey-linked mosque on ‘espionage’ charges

April 08,2017

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BRUSSELS: Amid allegations of spreading radicalization and espionage, the Belgian authorities have ordered to withdraw recognition license of Turkey-linked Fatha mosque and put Saudi-funded Grand Mosque under observation.

Fatha Mosque is connected to Turkish official religious organization, Diyanet. It is the second largest in Belgium after Grand Mosque in Brussels, which is also facing strict scrutiny over radicalization allegations and is said to be sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Both the mosques receive governmental subsidies as well.

According to Belgian authorities, the imam of the Fatha mosque is allegedly involved in espionage on Kurdish-Turks and supporters of Gulan movement. The imam is allegedly connected to Turkish intelligence services, they believed.

The Muslim Executives, the representative organization of the Belgian Muslims, is expected to give its response, while the mosque administration shall also be provided opportunity to defend itself.

However, a Turkish newspaper denied espionage charges by the Belgium authorities. Quoting a Belgian intelligence agency The Daily Sabah reported: "the intelligence agency denied the existence of a negative report about the Fatih Mosque in Beringen. Until now, there has been no proof of political interference or espionage activities conducted by Diyanet [Turkey's Presidency of Religious Affairs]."

The city of Beringen hosts large Turkish community, which is predominantly a staunch supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The sentiment among the people suggests that most of the community members are set to vote in favor of Turkish president in the coming referendum.

Besides Belgian authorities, many other European governments are increasingly convinced that foreign countries are using their dual nationals for espionage.

The intelligence agencies in Germany, France, Holland and other European countries have intensified monitoring of the suspicious mosques. Many incidents of surveillance, operations against mosque administration and raids on mosque premises have been seen in recent past.

In an official rebuttal of the allegations, the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Brussels said Kingdom's commitment to combating terrorism and radicalization is all too often unacknowledged.

“Saudi Arabia does not fund, support, or excuse any radical institution in Belgium, Europe, or anywhere. In fact, the Kingdom is recognised as a pioneer in addressing the problem of radicalization and terrorism at its root," said Abdulrahman Alahmed, the Saudi Ambassador to the EU and Belgium, in a statement.

The Saudi reaction came in response to recent publications in the Belgian press that the Saudi-funded Islamic Centre in Brussels is spreading extremist views in the country. The director of the Centre was recently invited by a Belgian parliamentary committee to testify in investigations on terrorist attacks in Brussels last year.

"Falsehoods linking Saudi Arabia and its values to extremism cannot be allowed to circulate unchallenged. Extremist thought and acts of senseless violence are diametrically opposed to what the Kingdom stands for. To tar Saudi Arabia with the same brush as Da'esh/ISIS is lax," noted the statement.

The statement concluded that Saudi Arabia would continue to support national and international authorities to help eradicate the terrorist scourge and its supporters from our societies.


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