CAIRO – Right-wing lawmakers in northern Belgium have launched an initiative to educate Muslim immigrants how to be a “European citizen”, sparking outrage in the country.
“What we say to them is, you come in a modern society based on the principles of the enlightenment, with freedoms and rights for everybody, also with obligations, with separation of church and state, with equality of men and women, with no discrimination principles,” Geert Bourgeois, the Flemish Integration Minister and member of the nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-Va) Party, told Russia Today on Tuesday, July 17.
The party has launched a ‘starter kit’ to educate Moroccan Muslim immigrants in the Flemish region in northern Belgium how to be a “European citizen”.
The kit tells the newcomers that people of the Flemish region stay at home most of the time and don’t make noise after 10 p.m.
Immigrants are also told that men and women are equal in the Flemish region and it is forbidden to hurt someone physically or mentally.
They are also told that the Flemish are used to respecting others and recycling their garbage.
The ‘starter kit’ also tells Moroccan immigrants that they must learn Dutch in order to be an effective member of the workforce.
It also includes a video featuring testimonies from recent immigrants about their experience in the Flemish region.
The kit was sent to the Moroccan government to distribute among immigrants coming into Belgium.
“You are perfectly able to get the Belgian nationality if you want, Belgian citizenship, without even knowing one of the official languages of this country,” said Philip Claeys, an MP from the Vlaams Belang Party.
“And this reflects I think the whole idea of what they call an integration policy which isn’t really an integration policy because it’s completely up to the people coming here if they really want to adapt, really want to integrate.”
But the ‘starter kit’ for Muslim immigrants has sparked outrage across Belgium.
“When you say that in Belgium, we live in houses, what does that mean? It means Moroccans are living in trees?” said Akhmed El Khannouss, a Flemish MP from the Socialist Party.
“When my Belgian neighbor makes noise until 3 am because he's drunk and it keeps me awake, should I also give him a kit to explain that he must respect the hour because we do not make noise in Belgium after 10 pm? This is common courtesy around the world!”
“I think there's a very large share of racism in this. Excuse me, but that's not how we educate.”
Belgian Muslims are estimated at 450,000 – out of a 10-million-population – about half of them are from Moroccan origin, while 120,000 are from Turkish origin.
About 2,500 Moroccans immigrate arrive in the Flemish region every year.
They can join a civic integration program organized by the Flemish government, which primarily focuses on teaching Dutch.
“Sure it's important to point out that in order to integrate, you need to speak Dutch. I have no problem with that,” said Brussels Deputy Said Serroukh.“What I have a problem with is the socio-cultural references. They explain to you that in order to find your place, you must culturally match a certain model.”
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