Antwerp police find no evidence of threat to Iftar event, Mayor slams organisers

Police in Antwerp have found no firm evidence of any threat against an Iftar meal for members of the LGBTQI+ community that was to have been held in the Roma cultural centre in the Borgerhout district of the city. The news that no evidence of a threat to the “Queer Iftar” event had been found was announced by the Mayor of Antwerp Bart De Wever (nationalist, photo above) on Monday evening. Mr De Wever also strongly criticised both the event’s organisers, Merhaba vzw and the De Roma cultural centre where the event was to have taken place for allegedly not having collaborated with the police investigation. 

Clearly irritated by the whole affair, Mr De Wever told Monday evening’s council meeting that "This is a very bad thing that leaves a bitter aftertaste and will continue to linger for some time yet”.

The event, where Moslims from the LGBTQI+ community were to have broken their fast together, was to have been held at De Roma after sunset this coming Friday. However, reports of negativity and threats made on social media lead the organisers of the Queer Iftar to cancel the event. 

Speaking at Monday evening’s council meeting, Mr De Wever said that "The police found no indications of any threats or intimidation. When you talk, as the organisers do, about a negative atmosphere this is something that the police will always find traces of online. We have found nothing. We see that there are negative comments online, but they are simply freedom of speech”. 

"Even when these comments come from a religious or another perspective these people have a right to their view. Even if I personally completely disagree with people that disagree with staging an Iftar for people of a certain sexual orientation they have a right to hold a different view. This is an element that I have missed in this debate. However, we have found no threats or intimidate made on religious grounds”. 

De Roma cultural centra accused of not assisting the police

Mr De Wever went on to slam the stance taken by the event’s organisers Merhaba and the De Roma cultural centre. The Mayor said that neither would tell the police what specific threats they had received nor where the threats came from.

"This is crass because at the same time you see a debate start up in society that is based on unconfirmed information and within the framework of which the Muslim community is placed in a bad light”.

"If the organisers of the Iftar had asked the police for assistance then it would have been given. If they had approached us to find a more discrete and safer location, we would have been pleased to help. But this didn’t happen and the event was simply cancelled. The city authorities in Antwerp are keen to stress that they will support any new initiative to organise a Queer Iftar. 

De Roma speaks of “serious personal threats.”

In a reaction the management of the De Roma cultural centre dismisses Mr De Wever’s claims.

"We held talks with the police several times. Above all we wanted to create a safe pace for the Queer Iftar, but when certain individual say that the atmosphere has become so grim then we don’t absolutely have to organise an Iftar event. 

This would miss the aim of us creating a safe spacspace”, De Roma’s Danielle Dierckx told VRT News. She added that threats had been made against individuals and it is up to them to report this. Ms Dierckx also has issues with “The Mayor thinking that we cancelled this Iftar on a whim”. 

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