I am currently studying abroad in Brussels, Belgium for the summer. My purpose for this endeavor is to pursue the study of Islam in the context of European politics. So when I received a quite startling e-mail from the U.S. embassy in Belgium, I knew I was in the crux of this subject.
Here in the last few weeks, Brussels has come under increased safety concerns. Specifically, the U.S. embassy issued another notice that the terrorism threat level has been elevated in light of a recent stabbing attack on Brussels police. The attack was in a metro and is thought to be in response to a police scuffle involving a Muslim woman. The altercation was centered around her resistance to the Belgian burqa ban law, enacted alongside France's last year.
What is Sharia4Belgium? Sharia4Belgium is a radical Muslim organization based in Belgium. According to Sharia4Belgium's website, they were "established to present Islam in its purest form" [Translated from Dutch to English]. Their mission statement includes a renouncement of democracy with the goal of transforming Belgium into an Islamic state.
Where does "Sharia4Belgium" come into the picture? In response to the initial altercation with the Muslim woman and Belgian police, Fouad Belkacem, a controversial figure and spokesman for Sharia4Belgium, entered the mix. Belkacem posted a video on Sharia4Belgium's official YouTube channel commending this woman and calling for a response to the police's actions. However, in this video, Belkacem called for violent responses, for which he was subsequently arrested. It was this call to action that has been cited as the motivation behind the metro stabbings.
Who is Behind this Counter-Demonstration? The email from the U.S. embassy in Belgium cited "[the] FGTB Youth, a socialist student group." The FGTB Youth is a semi-official offshoot of the larger FGTB, a Belgian socialist trade union. FGTB is an acronym for "Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique" [French]. The FGTB Youth's website uses classic themes of Belgian nationalism in their rhetoric. Their goal is to unite Belgium by emphasizing equality and utilizing socialism.
The FGTB's aim with this counter-demonstration is to combat the hatred that Sharia4Belgium has spewed in recent weeks. Furthermore, their aim is to fight fascism. Their motto for this demonstration is, "No fascism in our neighborhoods!"