Our Flemish correspondent VH reported last month on the issue of headscarves in Antwerp’s public schools. As of the beginning of this school year, the only two schools which had previously allowed pupils to wear headscarves had decided to ban them, so that there was no remaining public school in the city that allowed the hijab.
To recap from the earlier post:
The ban on headscarves at the Koninklijk [Royal] Atheneum in Antwerp and the Athenaeum in Antwerp-Hoboken led to massive protests by the Muslim community beginning during the summer holidays. These were the last two secondary schools in Antwerp that permitted the wearing of headscarves. In the new school year, which begins September 1, there will be none. […] The Imam Nordin Taouil, called for a school strike and even threatened a school revolt of Muslims throughout Flanders.
The headscarf issue in Antwerp is a classic probe. Right now the radical Muslims are enjoying the support of the usual idiot lefties. They are playing divide and conquer among the clueless kuffar while they see how far the hijab probe will take them. The issue has escalated to include some the standard behavior to be expected in the later stages of a probe: loud confrontation, vandalism, and death threats.
VH has compiled this follow-up report for Gates of Vienna.
Screaming, insults, and death threats
First, Karim Hassoun of the Arab European League on September 1 called for actions:
Refuse to take off your scarf or write yourself out!
While September 1 should be a day on which all students should be full of courage and with newly regained energy after a long holiday, and focus on the resumption of classes and the entering the new challenges of a new school, it is certainly a black day for the Islamic community and the principle of equality. Another black day in a series. Young girls who will be sent away from public schools because of a piece of cloth. Flanders should be ashamed of itself!
1) AUG 28 | Community education reviewing position on headscarves | After the headscarf debacle in the Athenaeum of Antwerp, the community education board announced that it would review its position on the headscarf issue. Provisionally, community education schools (public schools) are to decide themselves whether pupils should wear a headscarf or not. Only teachers of ideological studies may wear a headscarf or another religious symbol during classes.
2) SEP 01 | Protests with funny hats | Some sixty people — in addition to young Muslim women, also mothers, feminists and former students — protested Tuesday morning, September 1, at the school gates of the Koninklijk Atheneum at the Rooseveltplaats and an the Atheneum of Hoboken at the initiative of the Action Committee “Baas over eigen hoofd” (BOEH!, “Boss Your Own Head”), an action platform comprised of feminist associations that fight against discrimination. Some wore the most diverse objects on their heads, from strainers to rabbit-legs to snakes. That way they stressed their slogan “Boss Your Own Head” in a playful way.
“This rule is in conflict with the right to religious freedom and violates the right to education for one specific group,” Samira Azabar of BOEH! explained, “We denounce this double discrimination, and therefore called people to show up on the first day at school with a nonsense hat to show the absurdity of the ban.” According to the platform, all young people should have equal opportunities to education and should not be forced to choose their school depending on whether they may wear a headscarf or not. The police were discreetly present, but did not need to intervene. BOEH! will decide in the next few days on further actions against the headscarf ban.
Until then, twelve students had withdrawn their enrollment to the Atheneum. Karin Heremans, the director of the Royal Atheneum: “In the last three years the number of Muslims in our school has increased from 50 to almost 80 percent. Among them is a conservative group who forced others to wear of a headscarf as well. This clearly should not happen here. Everyone has the right to express his or her faith, but if there is pressure from the outside, it is our duty to intervene.”
3) SEP 1 | Screaming, insults and confrontations | At the Atheneum Hoboken a little more tension arose: “At the height of the event there were about seventy zealots screaming here. They plan to continue that, with the consent of the police, the whole week,” director Christiana Weyers said, who described the atmosphere as being grim at times. “It was a colorful mixture of students and parents. They were clearly looking for a confrontation with the Directors. I didn’t respond to that because I already made my position clear and still keep it like that. Then there were some lesser kind things chanted and the girls who were not wearing headscarves were hurled insults at.”
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4) SEP 03 | Harassment, indoctrination | In the meantime, at the Royal Athenaeum of Antwerp, as a result of the headscarf ban more pupils failed to show up. “Last year we had 578 students; 405 were present this Thursday. Currently, 33 students officially changed schools. The missing 95 are temporarily illegally absent and will receive a letter in the mail. We expect them to slowly to come back to school over time. Whether or not a there is a huge braid around their heads,” Karin Heremans concluded. The directors meanwhile criticize the protesters. “They call the students at their parent’s home and intimidate and harass them at the school gate. Moreover, students who do go to school are being threatened, and several pupils received nasty phone calls at home or were scared off at the school gate. Yesterday there was even someone on the playground writing down the names of the girls who lived up to the ban. A perfect proof that our decision to take away the pressure of having to wear a headscarf was necessary,” Heremans added.
SEP 03 | Protests become radical, school stormed, death threats | For the third day in a row there are protests against the headscarf ban at the Atheneum of Hoboken. “In a very rude, radical way,” director Chris Weyers said. According to the police, some 175 protesters gathered in the morning in front of the Atheneum Hoboken at the Hendriklei [Campus North]. The demonstration was authorized, but under certain conditions. One of them was that the protests only be in the Dutch language.
“A woman with a megaphone was shouting in Arabic to storm the school,” police spokesman Sven Lommaert said. “Some young fellows tried to do that, but they were stopped by our officers.” Also at the Royal Athenaeum on the Rooseveltplaats there were protests. Since the first school day, 11 additional students did not show up. But in Hoboken the protests were even more radical. According to director Chris Weyers it is totally abnormal when mothers are pounding with their fists on the door and make signs with their hands as if to slash their throats. “These are death threats against teachers and students,” Weyers said. Students who want to go to school cannot get in because of the radical actions, and parents forbid their children to go to school, even if they really want to. The school board does not understand why the mayor [a Socialist] continues to allow the protests and hopes that this all will soon be over.”
6) SEP 04 | Students scolded and teased | In Hoboken some 250 parents [“mainly Muslim mothers”], students and supporters tried to prevent students from access to the school. According to he director those students were scolded when they took off their scarves.
According Hajar Siyahya of the action group “Free Choice” about 130 protesters were present, including some students who refused to take off their headscarves at school. “We do not force anybody to participate,” Hajar Siyahya stressed, “On the contrary, we call on the students with a megaphone to come forward and report to the school. Not without my headscarf they say then. Already about nineteen girls have registered with the school, but were sent out again because they refused to take off their veil. Some of them will continue to participate in the action with their parents, others go to another school.”
SEP 04 | Antwerp forbids protests at school gate | The city of Antwerp that day decided that it would no longer give permission for events at school gates. That was announced later in the day by Mayor Patrick Janssens (SP.a, Flemish Socialists). The grim atmosphere and the complaints by the management about intimidations led to this decision. Mayor Janssens said that there has been enough now, and new applications for protests will be referred to other locations. “We attach great importance to freedom of expression,” Janssens said. “In that context we have in recent days each given authorization under strict conditions. We will not do that again next week. Everyone has been able to express his opinion. It is time for the serenity around the schools to return. Teachers, administrators, parents, but most of all toddlers and students of primary and secondary education have the right to a pleasant way to enter the new school year.” [He did not mention anything on the death threats by the Muslim mothers.]
It might be interesting to have a look at a few of those involved in the protests:
In January 2007, the city council intended to ban the headscarf for all staff of the municipality who have public functions. The action committee BOEH! was founded in co-operation with Vzw Motief, Federatie Marokkaanse Verenigingen (FMV) [Federation Moroccan Associations], FMV Supporting point Gent, Steunpunt Allochtone Meisjes en Vrouwen (SAMV) [Supporting Point Immigrant Girls and Woman], Vrouwen Overleg Komitee (VOK) [Women’s Consultation Committee], FC Poppesnor [Dolls Moustache (women with moustaches, grrrl power, organised lectures by Feminists like the Belgian Ida Dequeecker and the Dutch anti-Semite Anja Meulenbelt], Minderhedenforum [Minority Forum], AEL [Arab European (Neo-Nazi) League, AEL], Zuiderpershuis, De Centrale, and KVS. With the (financial and moral) support of Flemish Minister of Culture, Youth, Sports and Media, Bert Anciaux
As this shows, BOEH! is a fusion of Leftists, Feminists (Leftists), Muslims and Arab Neo-Nazis (the Arab European League of the Hizbullah volunteer and Jew-hater, Dyab Abou Jahjah) under the umbrella of the notorious Socialist and Anti Semite Bert Ancieaux, or “Bert the Weeper”.
In May 2007 twenty-one Flemish V.I.P.s were portrayed with funny hats in BOEH! posters. Here is the list of the idiots who think a strainer on your head is equal to an enforced Jilbab: Saddie Choua, Silvie Debie, Robbe De Hert, Marleen Merckx (affiche), Youssef El Mousaoui, Pol Goossen, Carry Goossens, Fatima Marzouki, Tom Naegels, An Nelissen, Annemarie Picard, Peter Platel Anne Provoost, Tine Reymer, Bart Slegers, Ali Tcheelab, Margot Vanderstraeten, Hilde Van Mieghem, Tessa Vermeiren, Vitalski, Walter Zinzen, “…all share the opinion of the Muslimas of BOEH!”
“The result of this ban is that it teaches people discriminate rather than to live with other believers and dissenters,” Saida El Fekri of BOEH! said. In a letter published at Indymedia and a number of Muslim websites they stated: “We women, Muslims, of other religions, or not religious, immigrant and indigenous, are tired of the headscarf debate and find that it is time to address the real problems in our cities and towns. With that in mind we went to the voting box in October 2006. We had therefore expected that the newly-elected city government — that was there partly because of the votes of the immigrant communities — would implement a policy that would benefit to all Antwerpers. But on the contrary, there now will be a measure taken to divide us citizens.” Many protest actions followed, but without result, and the ban was established.
Muslims were still outraged about the ban: “In the course of the protests, the Muslim women went so far as to demand that henceforth no more Christmas trees would be placed in the town hall and Easter eggs distributed. The demands in other words go ever further and interfere increasingly with our way of life,” Vlaams Belang wrote in their E-magazine.
In response to these protests, the Antwerp city government decided to give in a little, to make a concession: Muslim women working in an Antwerp nursery were still no longer allowed to wear a headscarf. But they would get an alternative provided: a bandana. “We have openly discussed the situation and have come to an agreement,” according to Veerle Degryse, spokeswoman for the Antwerp alderman of Community Development, Leen Verbist (SP.a, Flemish Socialists).” Reuters wrote: “The substitution will initially be permitted only for those working in childcare, though the city will debate whether or not to extend this option to those who work in other areas.”
Filip Dewinter, of Vlaams Belang, filed a complaint against this unnecessary and unasked for knee jerk. According to Filip Dewinter the principle of equality would be violated with this concession, especially because wearing a cross or a keppeltje (yarmulke) would still remain prohibited [anyone employed by local authorities in Antwerp was prohibited from wearing any expressions of their religious or philosophical beliefs]. He therefore planned to make an appeal based on the anti-discrimination law. “Of the original intent of the rule, namely respecting the neutrality of the public service, nothing will remain,” said Filip Dewinter. “For whether it is a headscarf or a bandana, it still is a headgear that is worn because of religious considerations.” Apart from the complaint he planned to submit, he also launched an appeal to all city officials who would be discriminated against because of this new “bandana” rule (especially Christians and Jews), to file a complaint as well.
Meanwhile, according to Marij Uijt den Bogaard, formerly a field worker in the Antwerp integration service, the debate over the headscarf at the Antwerp counters were starting to get hilarious [think of the BOEH! campaign, the bandana proposal and the revenge to forbid Christmas trees]. “Moreover,” as she continued, “the city would do well to look at the connections and networking among the women who always and everywhere are fighting and organizing for their right to the headscarf, and other organizations who also have this high on the agenda. That would provide insight into whom one actually has to deal with and what they stand for [like the AEL and imam Nordin Taouil]. That question is more intrusive than the size of the headscarf or whether is permissible or not.”
Update from September 7th:
The headscarf protests continue… A Socialist student organization also seems to be involved. Eight of them have been arrested this morning:
Vandals smear school gate Atheneum Hoboken
The protest against the headscarf ban at the Atheneum in Hoboken continues as expected. Tonight, vandals smeared the school gate with yellow paint. They wrote on it “No headscarf, no school” and also smashed the glass of a door. The vandals also broke into the school. The police, who today are massively present in the vicinity of the school, are conducting an investigation and trying to trace evidence.
Despite the ban on demonstrations, the Actief Linkse Studenten [Active Left Students, a Socialist (Marxist) organization] this morning gathered again in front of the school. They handed out pamphlets and called out not to be restrained and to continue protesting. The police immediately arrived on the spot and arrested nine demonstrators. Moments later there was a meeting of Muslim women, but they disappeared again in the surrounding streets as soon the police showed up.
At the Atheneum Antwerp this morning everything was quiet. “Police kept an eye on the school here Monday morning, but did not have to intervene. Hopefully, the rest have finally returned,” director Karin Heremans said.