Paul Belien, Brussels Journal, September 27, 2006
It looks as if immigrants youths want to turn nightly rioting during the Islamic holy month of ramadan into an annual tradition. Around 8:30pm last night violence erupted again in Brussels, the capital of Europe. The riots centered on the Brussels Marollen quarter and the area near the Midi Train Station, where the international trains from London and Paris arrive. Youths threw stones at passing people and cars, windows of parked cars were smashed, bus shelters were demolished, cars were set ablaze, a youth club was arsoned and a shop was looted. Two molotov cocktails were thrown into St.Peter’s hospital, one of the main hospitals of central Brussels. The fire brigade was able to extinguish the fires at the hospital, but youths managed to steal the keys of the fire engine.
During the month of ramadan Muslims are required to fast during the day and are only allowed to eat after sunset. As Esther pointed out “What should be noticed about the riots is that they start after sunset. Besides the fact that they start after dark, it also gives the rioters enough time to break their fast and enjoy the traditional family meal. Sunset is around 7:30pm.” Tuesday’s and Monday’s riots began around 8:30pm.
Last night the police arrested 45 rioters. One of them will be prosecuted for assaulting the owner of a shop. Philippe Close, the chef de cabinet of the Mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, said that the authorities would continue their efforts to defuse the situation in a peaceful manner, but he announced that the police will be less complacent in future, “since we cannot tolerate that this [Marollen] neighbourhood falls victim to a problem from outside the neighbourhood.”
The immigrant youths claim that they are upset by the death of Fayçal Chaaban, a 25-year old criminal, in a Brussels prison last Sunday. Yesterday morning the authorities announced they would hold a meeting with the youths to hear their grievances about security in prison, but the meeting, which was due last night, could not take place because of the riots.
The authorities are especially nervous since the Belgian municipal elections are being held on Sunday October 8th. It is likely that the elections will be won by anti-immigrant, “islamophobic” parties. Since ramadan will not be over on October 8th and many immigrants might perceive a victory of the indigenous right (as opposed to their own far-right) as an insult, Muslim indignation over the election results in major cities may spark serious disturbances. According to a poll published today the Vlaams Belang party is set to win 38.6% of the vote in Antwerp (compared to 33,0% in the previous municipal elections six years ago).
More on this topic (with links to the 2005 Ramadan Riots):
Ramadan Rioting in Brussels, 26 September 2006