Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur warned Wednesday that radical Islamists control mosques around the Belgian capital, but denies the city is the “jihadi capital” of the West.
Salafists, or fundamentalist Sunni Muslims, control all mosques in Brussels, Mayeur said in a Wednesday interview with Belgian newspaper De Morgen. He is now calling on the city to establish new mosques controlled by the government.
“Everyone knows that all mosques in Brussels are in the hands of Salafists,” Mayeur said on the one-year anniversary of the attacks against an airport and a metro station in the city. “We need to change this, we need new mosques that follow our democratic rules and that are being controlled by the government.”
Police in the neighborhood of Molenbeek have uncovered 51 groups with alleged ties to terror organizations, according to a confidential report released Monday. (RELATED: Report: Brussels Neighborhood Is Home To 51 Terror-Linked Groups)
The area has a link to nearly every terror attack on the West since the turn of the century, but Mayeur dismissed the city’s label as the “jihadi capital” of Europe.
“Jihadism in Belgium started in Antwerp, then spread to Vilvoorde, Molenbeek and Brussels-north,” Mayeur told De Morgen.
Germany has reported similar problems with its Salafist scene. The movement nearly doubled from 3,800 members in 2011 to 7,500 in 2015, according to government estimates. Figures released in January by Hans-Georg Maassen, Germany’s domestic terror chief, reveal the number is now above 9,700.
“It’s of great concern to us that this scene is not only growing, but it is also very diversified. There is not just one, two, three or four people who have a say,” Maassen said, according to AFP. “Rather, there are many people who dominate this Salafist scene. And all these people have to be watched.”