Mosques to Receive Government Funding in Belgium

Brussels, Belgium - Mosques in Belgium, where Islam is one of six officially recognized religions, will begin to receive government funding next year.

While Islam has been a recognized religion in Belgium since 1974, it has not benefited from the funding allocated to churches, synagogues and other religious institutions.

Flemish integration minister Marino Keulen announced that seven mosques would begin receiving funding as of 2007. The mosques will, however, have to meet special requirements in order to be eligible for the funds.

Religious and non-religious people live together in the Flemish region; this is a fact that needs to be accepted, the minister said, adding that officially recognized mosques would be encouraged to use government funding in a transparent way.

She also noted that Imams would have to learn and speak Flemish in order for a mosque to be officially recognized.

Thirty mosques have so far applied for official recognition. The Belgium Muslim Representation association will determine which mosques will initially receive funding.

Keulen noted that the funding currently allocated for mosques would only be enough for seven mosques in 2007. The imams of recognized mosques will be able to receive salaries like priests and rabbis, and mosques will be eligible to receive additional money for repairs and restoration.

This is a significant development, Keulen said, adding that Islam was a growing religion in the country.

“There are 150,000 Flemish Muslims and officially recognizing mosques and providing them with government assistance will be a positive foundation for communication with these Muslims. This will not only help to normalize our relations with Islam, but also prevent Islam from becoming an insignificant matter.”