The Belgian government is trying to combat the spread of radical Islam with millions of dollars in state funds to employ more imams.
It has set aside $3.6 million to add 80 new imams, Justice Minister Koen Geens announced Thursday, as part of the country’s action plan against radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism, newspaper De Standaard reports.
“The strategy fits in with our philosophy of a more integrated Islam,” Geens said. “A recognized mosque is a sign of an integrated Islam.”
A small fraction of mosques in Belgium are considered “recognized mosques” in the sense that they receive government funding to operate. There are currently 30 recognized mosques in the Dutch speaking Flanders half of Belgium, with an additional 50 about to be added.
Authorities want to provide young Muslims with a safe alternative to the radical mosques that have been flooding the country. Belgium has turned into a European headquarter for terrorist organizations such as Islamic State and al Qaida, with a lot of terrorism recruitment taking place at underground mosques. (RELATED: An Inside Look At The European Jihadi Capital That Keeps Brussels On High Alert)
“In the fight against radicalization, it is important that young people don’t drift into the arms of radical mosques,” Geens said. “This also provides us with more interlocutors.”
The recent case of an imam at a recognized mosque in the city of Borgerhout leaving for Syria to join ISIS shows that the system isn’t bulletproof. The imam had not been monitored by police, who were taken by his radicalization.
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