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.]
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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.