Brussels has no grasp of Turkish interference in mosques

24 May 2023

Flanders has a screening service to monitor whether there is any control and interference from the Turkish government in Diyanet mosques. Brussels has no such service, and according to Brussels MP Mathias Vanden Borre, this is a problem. “According to Minister-President Vervoort (PS party), the Diyanet mosques in Brussels are not being used for political purposes related to the Turkish presidential elections. But on what basis does he make that assumption if there is no monitoring whatsoever,” Vanden Borre wonders.

The second round of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections takes place this weekend. Turks in Belgium can also cast their vote. “Of course, everyone with a Turkish passport is free to cast their vote in Belgium for the elections in Turkey, but for a long time, we have been unable to ignore the fact that the state interference of the Turkish government, especially through certain mosques, poses a substantial threat that not only promotes segregation, but above all, also leads to a very compelling propaganda policy in favour of the incumbent president,” warns Vanden Borre, who questioned the Minister-President about this.

Why is it different in Brussels?

In Brussels, there are four mosques affiliated with Diyanet, the Turkish Ministry of Religious Affairs, three of which are recognised by the Brussels-Capital Region. That recognition is coupled with financial support. According to Vervoort, we must distinguish between Diyanet in Turkey and Diyanet in Belgium, and the unrestricted use of problematic messages disseminated by Diyanet in Turkey is limited in Belgium. “But the Flemish Information and Screening Service (Vlaamse Informatie- en Screeningsdienst, ISD) assessed that Diyanet in Belgium is structurally under the control of Diyanet in Turkey. The strong control exerted by Turkey on the mosque associations detracts from the independent functioning of mosque associations. The ISD’s investigation resulted in nine warnings and three suspensions. Why would that be different in Brussels? Vervoort is unjustifiably resting on his laurels,” says Vanden Borre.

No screening service in Brussels

Brussels thus also needs an information and screening service such as in Flanders. “Unfortunately, my proposal to set up such a service in Brussels was rejected during the 2021 reform of the funding of faith communities. Nevertheless, doing so would allow Brussels to conduct such investigations as in Flanders and take targeted actions to counter foreign interference,” Mathias Vanden Borre concludes.

How valuable did you find this article?

Enter your personal score here
The average score is