Almost half of Flemish municipalities confronted with some form of radicalisation

According to a survey carried out by the Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG) almost half of Flemish municipal authorities are confronted with some form of radicalisation in their respective areas. 151 Flemish local authorities took part in the survey. While previously radicalisation was mainly linked to religious extremism and jihadi, the issue of radicalisation now centres for a large part on homophobia and far-right ideology.    

The survey was carried out during the summer. 20% of the municipal and city authorities that took part said that they had issues with polarisation between different groups in society. Almost half of the local authorities surveyed said that they are confronted with radicalisation or groups or individuals that strive to or support those that strive to make radical changes to society that could threaten law and order in our democracy. 

Swastikas, homophobia and islamophobia

Currently radicalisation centres mainly around expressions of far-right ideology. One in five local authorities surveyed say that it is an issue in their area. The Chair of VVSG, the Mayor of Genk (Limburg) Wim Dries (Christian democrat) told VRT News that "Two years ago we hardly received any reports about this kind of thing, but things are very different now. It’s about extreme acts being glorified and swastikas being worn but also about expressions of islamophobia and homophobia.

"A lot of local authorities don’t know what they should do about it. This is why we need too pool our knowledge and experience. How do you address it, how do you talk to people about it…, these are thinks that  we need to consider”.

Mr Dries adds that the local security cells that were originally set up to monitor radicalised Muslim youths can play a role here.  

Habits and traditions

The survey also reveals that many municipalities are confronted with conflicts that stem from religious or cultural differences. For example, parents that don’t want their children to participate in swimming, gym or music classes. VVSG says that this stems from a lack of knowledge of each-others’ customs and traditions. VVSG believes that both municipalities and the Flemish Regional Authorities have a role to play in addressing this.