VB given access to mosque applications

Brussels, Belgium - Opposition party right-wing Vlaams Belang will be given access to the applications submitted by mosques for recognition by the Flemish government. The Internal Administration Agency had refused to release the documents, but this refusal is unjustified, says the appeal agency for freedom of information.

Islam has been one of the six recognised religions in Belgium since 1974, but in contrast to other local religious communities, like churches and synagogues, mosques were not given subsidies until now. Flemish minister for integration Marino Keulen (Open Vld) wants to officially recognise the first mosques before the end of this year.

Vlaams Belang requested access to the application files from eight mosques, but the Internal Administration Agency would not release the files, arguing that they were not yet complete and that the Flemish government had not yet taken a decision on the applications.

But the appeal department to which Vlaams Belang turned after the refusal says there is no reason why the documents cannot be released before a final decision is made. An examination turned up that the files were in fact complete.

Vlaams Belang will be able to examine the applications, but not any documents that contain confidential business information, such as estimates from construction firms, or documents that are protected by copyright, like building plans.

Vlaams Belang says it wants to look into the extent to which the mosques satisfy the legal requirements for recognition. The party remains "opposed of course to the recognition and subsidisation of mosques," because this "contributes to the development of a separate Islamic pillar in society and ultimately the Islamisation of Flanders."