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Belgian Gender Equality Commissioner Steps Down Amid Mounting Criticism Of Muslim Brotherhood Ties, Remarks On State Neutrality

July 18th, 2021 18:31

Bel­gian media is report­ing that Ihsane Haouach, who had been appoint­ed the country’s top gen­der equal­i­ty com­mis­sion­er, has resigned before start­ing her term amid mount­ing crit­i­cism about her poten­tial Mus­lim Broth­er­hood ties and con­tro­ver­sial remarks she made on state neu­tral­i­ty. Accord­ing to a La Libre arti­cle:

July 12, 2021 Ihsane Haouach sub­mit­ted her res­ig­na­tion this Fri­day, July 9. Since then, rumors have been rife about the rea­sons that prompt­ed the gov­ern­ment com­mis­sion­er to the Insti­tute for Gen­der Equal­i­ty (IEFH) to step down. The lat­ter explained that her choice fol­lowed […] inces­sant attacks against her on social net­works. But, accord­ing to sev­er­al sources, links have been estab­lished by [domes­tic intel­li­gence ser­vices] between Ihsane Haouach and mem­bers of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. [Trans­lat­ed from French using Google.]

Read the rest here.

Ihsane Haouach first stirred con­tro­ver­sy in an inter­view with news­pa­per “Le Soir”, in which she defend­ed her con­cep­tion of state neu­tral­i­ty, say­ing that the prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion of church and state might not be rec­on­cil­able in light of ‘demo­graph­ic change.’

Her  res­ig­na­tion came before a 12 July 2021 par­lia­men­tary hear­ing  that was attend­ed by Bel­gian gov­ern­ment lead­ers, who were pro­vid­ed with an intel­li­gence memo detail­ing Haouach’s prob­lem­at­ic ties. Accord­ing to media reports, she could poten­tial­ly face a hear­ing by Bel­gian author­i­ties about those same con­nec­tions. A leaked ver­sion of this intel­li­gence memo says that Haouach main­tains “close con­tact” with the League of Mus­lims of Bel­gium (LMB), one of the main Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tions in Bel­gium asso­ci­at­ed with the Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood (GMB). Found­ed in 1997, it main­tains ten mosques, and is present in sev­er­al Bel­gian cities, includ­ing Brus­sels, Antwerp, Ghent, and Verviers. In late June 2021, a Brus­sels-based fun­da­men­tal­ism watch­dog com­piled evi­dence show­ing that Haouach had repeat­ed­ly met with and received sup­port from indi­vid­u­als tied to the GMB in Bel­gium, includ­ing some asso­ci­at­ed with the Euro­pean Forum of Mus­lim Women, a Mus­lim women’s umbrel­la group rep­re­sent­ing the GMB in Europe.

Haouach had orig­i­nal­ly been appoint­ed to her post by the Bel­gian State Sec­re­tary for Equal­i­ty and Diver­si­ty, Sarah Schlitz of the green par­ty Eco­lo. Both a 2008 report on the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Bel­gium authored by the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR), as well as Bel­gian media, have iden­ti­fied promi­nent Eco­lo politi­cian Hajib El Haj­ja­ji as part of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood net­work in Bel­gium. Although he denies any asso­ci­a­tion with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, El Haj­ja­ji was found to have been an offi­cer of both the Com­plex édu­catif et Cul­turel Islamique de Verviers (CECIV) and Essalem, two orga­ni­za­tions asso­ci­at­ed with the GMB in the coun­try. In Jan­u­ary 2021, the GIOR report­ed that Eco­lo is also tied to the con­tro­ver­sial Islam­o­pho­bia watch­dog Col­lec­tif Con­tre l’Islamophobie en Bel­gique (CCIB), which Bel­gian media reports is now being inves­ti­gat­ed by the country’s author­i­ties. Pri­or report­ing about CCIB and its French/Belgian sis­ter orga­ni­za­tion has also included:

  • A Jan­u­ary 2021 report that CCIB was among a group of activists suc­cess­ful­ly cam­paign­ing to allow reli­gious cloth­ing in High­er Edu­ca­tion in the Wal­lo­nia-Brus­sels region.
  • A Feb­ru­ary 2021 report that CCIB’s French part­ner orga­ni­za­tion, banned by the French gov­ern­ment in 2020, has regrouped in Bel­gium under a new name.
  • A March 2021 report that a CCIB rep­re­sen­ta­tive was among the par­tic­i­pants of a vir­tu­al anti-racism sum­mit that fea­tured appear­ances by top-lev­el EU officials.