Controversy over fundamentalist meeting in Genk Town Hall

A report broadcast in the Dutch current affairs programme ‘Nieuwsuur’ has caused controversy here. The report into how a growing number of young Muslims are adhering to a strict interpretation of their religion shows a meeting that was held at Genk Town Hall Limburg province.

During the meeting youngsters were told to stop listening to music as this constitutes a sin in the eyes of Islam.

The Genk Muslim association "Al Qiblah - Het Kompas" (the compass in Arabic and Dutch) organised the meeting that was entitled “From the cradle to the grave”. One of those that gave a reading was the Dutch former rapper Salah Edin. He was once a popular musician before he converted to a more fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.

Men and women had to sit apart during the meeting and youngsters were told to try and no longer listen to music as it was sinful. They were also told to no longer frequent place where alcohol is served even if they don’t touch it themselves.

The meeting took place in Genk Town Hall on 30 September. "Nieuwsuur" recorded the reading and broadcast some of the footage in a report broadcast on Sunday evening.

The Secretary of State responsible for equal opportunities Zuhal Demir (Flemish nationalist), who is from Genk, said that such meeting should not be held in the Town Hall. Ms Demir has ambitions to become Mayor of the Limburg town. On the social media platform Twitter Ms Demir attack the local authority’s decision to allow the meeting to take place in the Town Hall.

“Religious madmen spread hate, pitch communities against each other and treat women like dirt. In Genk Town Hall! Should we allow this?” she wrote.

Speakers were screened in advance

In a response, the Mayor of Genk Wim Dries (Christian democrat) told VRT News that the hall where the meeting took place had been let to a local not-for-profit group that the local authority knew well.

“All the speakers were screened in advance. Before the meeting we had no indication that things might be said that were problematic. A police officer was present and they said that there was no incitement to hatred. In the meantime, I have looked at the footage in the report and will investigate the matter thoroughly”.