Terrorism watchdog warns against influence of Salafist ideology

The OCAD, the Belgian government body that analyses the terrorist threat, has issued a warning with regard to the increased influence of Salafism on imams and mosques in Belgium. The body concedes that Salafists form a small minority but insists that the development is a cause for concern.

The daily De Standaard has gained access to the OCAD report issued in October of last year. The OCAD is worried about the growing influence of the Salafist ideology on imams in Belgium and Europe. The report warns against the growing influence of this very conservative and radical version of Islam that is backed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. A central tenant is a return to pure Islam. A clear distinction is also made between Muslims and infidels. Salafism believes that today's society should adapt to Salafism and not the other way around.

"A growing number of mosques and Islamic centres in Belgium are under the influence of a Wahhabi, Salafist proselytising apparatus. More and more mosques in Brussels, Antwerp and Mechelen are strictly Wahhabist."

Wahhabist preachers attempt to increase their influence in various ways, the report says. This is happening directly by radical preachers from Muslim countries in our mosques, but also via dedicated media.

The sale of Salafist literature in Arabic and translation is booming in Belgium. Salafist DVDs are sponsored via Saudi Arabia. There are dedicated satellite TV channels with social media too playing an important role in the dissemination of such beliefs.

"Their efforts are often targeted at getting Muslims in the West to turn their backs on western values and norms that they perceive to be in violation with the "rights of God" revealed in the Koran. In the most extreme cases this can lead to violence because according to Salafism jihad against infidels is warranted.

"The small, moderate imam in the mosque is no match for all these media violence" the report says.

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