Category Archives: Belgium

Wither Belgium — Divided Views?

A hundred eighty years ago, European nations created a new country named, Belgium, which was to serve as a point of separation between rival Germany and France. In creating this entity, people from French and Dutch speaking areas were brought together and a monarch was identified who would rule, Initially, French speaking areas were wealthier than their Dutch speaking people in Flanders. But, times changed, and now Flanders contains greater economic wealth than its French speaking neighbors. The latest election revealed dramatic changes set to occur. The New Flemish Alliance(N-VA) which seeks the dissolution of Belgium into two areas emerged as the largest party in Parliament with 30 of 150 seats. French speaking Socialists won 26 seats and the remainder were spread among smaller parties.

At a time of serious economic crisis with a debt-to-GDP ratio set to rise above 100% this year, Belgium can ill afford divisive politics which would prevent unified action. Recent elections in Europe and the upcoming American congressional elections reveal a confused, angry population which prefers dealing with other than important issues at times of crisis. Such is the way of the world.

Belgium Votes To Decide Female Dress

The Belgian legislature has decided to join the ranks of Iran and Saudi Arabia by deciding how Muslim women should or should not dress while in public. Buy a vote of 136 to zero the Belgian parliament voted to ban the wearing of the burqa or niqab in public. Denis Durcame, an MP, boasted, “we’re the first country to spring the lock that has made a good number of women slaves.” The Belgian action is expected to shortly be followed by nations like France or Austria. This is the first example in modern European history in which government decides teh dress of women. According to the law, use of the niqab or burqa is forbidden in the street, sports buildings public gardens, and buildings “meant for use or to provide services to the public.”

I assume there is a rational reason to prevent the use of these garments in parks, but it at this moment it escapes me. Perhaps, the law is designed to prevent animals from being upset at the sight of women whose faces are hidden. As I recall in my youth there were nuns who wandered the streets in garments that prevented their legs from being shown. How about a law forbidding any garment which does not reveal legs?

Bad Day For Bishops And Saints

These are not good times for leaders of the Catholic Church, particularly, when two new sex abuses scandals emerge within a few days dealing with famous priests. In Belgium, Roger Vaheluwe, Bishop of Bruges, admitted that years ago he molested a boy and feels guilt at the psychological damage his acts did to this person. He announced his resignation. In Chile, four men instituted criminal charges against the Rev. Fernando Karadima who is regarded by many people in Chile as a living saint. Some are furious at the men for making public their claims to being sexually abused while others are furious at the reverend for mistreating young men. Charges are flying back and forth from those who insist they were secretly abused by Karadima for years while his defenders insist no such abuse ever occurred.

One can only conclude that Pope Benedict XVI must finally summon a conclave to deal with this situation and seriously examine the issue of celibacy in the church. What next– a charge against the Pope?

OFF WITH THEIR VEILS!

The world is confronting an enormous economic decline and millions of people have lost life savings and homes, but to the Brussels federal parliament the issue of the day is denying Muslim women the right to wear the niqab or burqa in public. According to Daniel Bacquelain who proposed the new legislation which makes it a crime for a Muslim woman to wear these face coverings in public, he was taking a stand for freedom. “It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask or enclose an individuals. Because, in his view, wearing the burqa in public is not compatible with an open liberal, tolerant society.” Huh? How can there be an “open, liberal, tolerant society” if women can not wear clothes they choose to wear?

P.S. There are about 500,000 Muslims in Belgium and it is rare to find any woman wearing these garments. Is this much ado about nothing other than destroying a woman’s right to wear what she desires?

Headscarf War In Bellgium

For some strange reason, many European nations believe what a girl wears on her head is among the greatest issues confronting their societies. Many Muslim girls in Antwerp protested when the Royal Atheneum school joined the rest of the city in banning Muslim girls from wearing a headscarf. In Belgium, schools decide whether or not to allow this issue to become an issue by banning or not banning the headscarf. The ban policy began in Roman Catholic schools which forced many Muslim girls to enter public schools in order to remain true to their religion.

One Muslim girl has filed a complaint with the Belgian Council of State which previously had said such bans were only legal if all Flemish schools agreed to the ban. Flemish schools have also issued a ban on the Jewish yarmulka and Christian crosses. The unanswered question is what is the end goal of these bans? What is the problem!!

Headscarved Deputy In Belgian Local Parliament

As far as this blog writer knows, the Earth is still rotating around the sun, there are clouds in the sky, and humans continue to breathe the air in peace. But, for some who hate Muslims and deplore the idea that Muslim women can freely choose to wear a headscarf, this undoubtedly is a sad day. Mahinu Ozdemir, a 28 year old Muslim woman was freely elected to a local Belgian parliament and will wear the headscarf while doing her job as an elected official. She was one of six Belgians of Turkish heritage to win seats in local parliaments. Opponents claim that pictures of the attractive Ms. Ozdemir did not portray her wearing a headscarf and the entire electoral process was an attempt to dupe the Belgian public.

The issue as to whether Ms. Ozdemir displayed or hid her headscarf is rather irrelevant since anyone knew she was a woman of Muslim background and what she wears on top of her head is really of no concern. Would opponents be upset if a man who wore a beard shaved it off during an election campaign? Why are rules different for women than for men?

Illegal Immigrants On Hunger Strike In Belgium

Groups of illegal immigrants in Belgium have resorted to hunger strikes because their applications for residency have not been granted. A doctor warned the condition of many was now entering a serious stage. The immigrants come from a wide range of the world including African nations, Brazil, and Iran. Many of them are either waiting to hear about their request for residency or have been rejected and face deportation to possible dangerous situations. On Tuesday, seventy immigrants accepted a deal under which they secured ninety day visas in return for ending the hunger strikes. Their protests have spurred church organizations and human rights groups to urge the Belgium government to grant a blanket immunity and allow them to obtain a visa. Belgium last granted such an amnesty in 2000.

As always in these situations, right wing groups want firm action and accuse the government of being soft on illegal immigrants whom they consider to be criminals. The world is witnessing a vast migration of people and the situation will become even more prevalent as European nations age and lack young people to do the work necessary in modern societies.

Belgian Women Encounter Workplace Discrimination

There is a growing feeling among many people in Europe that old fashioned discrimination against women or gays belongs to the past and in the modern world there increasingly is a commitment to equality regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity. However, a recent report from the Institute For Equality Between Men And Women(IEBMWW) reveals the number of claims of workplace discrimination based on pregnancy has doubled in the past year. More pregnant women are facing old fashioned discrimination because of their decision to have a child and remain working. In one out of seven reported cases, discrimination was directly linked to issues relating to pregnancy, giving birth or motherhood.

According to Patrick Verraes of IEBMWW, many employers simply ignore the law and proceed with their discriminatory practices. “They don’t want to incur extra costs by taking on a replacement and assume that a woman with children is less focussed on her job.” he believes there is need for additional legislation to combat discrimination against women who seek to work and have a family.

Are Belgian Youth Exceptionally Materialistic?

A recent survey of about 1,762 Belgian youth between the ages of 12-24 revealed the type of information all such surveys generally report in modern times– youth are pampered and materialistic. The poll did highlight contemporary youth spend a great deal of time on the Internet, and, in the case of Belgian young people that is a daily occurence for 86%. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of Belgian young people obtain information about the world from the Internet rather than from print media. About 87% own a computer and 67% have a lap top while 47% own a game console.

Like most youth in the past as well as in the present, the majority want to own a home, get married and have children and live the good life. Youth has always been criticized by the adult world for some sort of misbehavior. Of course, the adults making the charges are the former adolescents

Illegal Immigrants Strike In EU

Nearly 240 illegal immigrants went on a hunger strike as the European Union’s 27 member states were putting the final touches on a new document which allows governments to detain illegal immigrants for up to 18 months and then prevent them from re-entering the EU for up to five years. The illegals are bunkered down in a church in Brussells while not far away EU officials are prepared to tell them they are not welcome and must leave. A man named Mohad from Algeria said he has been on the hunger strike snce May 8 and already had spent nearly two years in a migrant detention camp located in the Netherlands. “The European Community is not human,” was his plaintive comment.

Most of the migrants complained about being treated like criminals even though their only desire is for work and to be a productive human. At present, the cap in nations like Spain is 40 days and in Belgium it is eight months so the proposed legislation would allow immigrants to be detained much longer than most existing laws by member nations.

An EU spokesperson put it honestly about the attitude toward illegal immigrants: “If they arrive here, it’s not going to be paradise.” It is doubtful if any illegal immigrant seeks paradise, but how about an opportunity to work hard?