Sharia law, Islamist democracy, separation of men and women in public transport–all of these are the policies promulgated by Belgium’s Islam Party. The party is hoping to win seats in Belgium’s October municipal elections.
Two party members were elected in 2012, including one in the Molenbeek area of Brussels. This year, it will run in 28 municipalities.
There is strong support for its policies from some of the country’s Muslims:
“It’s really good to separate men from women on public transport,” said Sarouj Mohammed, a Molenbeek resident. “There are men who sexually harass women on buses, there are even women who harass men too.”
Ann Gilles-Goris, a Molenbeek Councillor, commented: “We build a society by building bridges, by putting people together, by allowing them to experience everyday life together. If we start to separate men and women, I think we’re doing the wrong thing.”
The party is focusing its efforts on conservative Muslims. It says it doesn’t intend to violate the Belgian constitution.
“It’s a project born out of the request of women, who were really harassed, who were really abused, by people who are poorly educated, by perverts it must be said,” said Abdelhay Bakkali Tahiri, President of the Islam Party.
“In Japan it works very well, there are cars reserved for women during rush hour.”
The Islam Party has sparked a strong reaction from Belgian politicians on social media. The separation of men and women has been condemned and Sharia law criticized as a violation of human rights.
“This party is a bit like the populist and nationalist push of other parties that are on the far right or the far left,” said Hasni Abidi, Director of the Study and Research Centre for the Arab and Mediterranean World (CERMAM), in Geneva. “We cannot ban a political party even if this party advocates extreme ideas because the political landscape has enough room for all these parties.”
Belgium’s State Secretary of Immigration Theo Francken called the party members “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
“A political party called ‘ISLAM’ is growing in Belgium. They openly call for the introduction of Sharia law. The Sharia is in violation with human rights. Sharia parties therefore are antidemocratic,” he wrote on Twitter.
A member of the DeFI liberal party, Olivier Maingain, called on Brussels to ban the controversial party. “It is necessary to have courage to ban the party like ISLAM [because it is] a theocracy project, contrary to democracy,” he wrote.