Belgium arrests Islamist for hate video after riot over face veil arrest
The leader of a Belgian Islamist group, Sharia4Belgium, was arrested on Thursday for posting an Internet video urging attacks on non-Muslims after a woman was detained in Brussels for wearing a face veil. Fouad Belkacem, also known as Abu Imran, was detained at his home in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp and remanded in custody on suspicion of breaking anti-discrimination laws and inciting violence.
“He posted a video message on YouTube in which he called on his brothers and sisters to fight against non-believers,” said a spokesman for the Antwerp prosecutor.
Last week protesters threw metal barriers and bins at a police station following the arrest of a Muslim woman for refusing to remove her face veil.
Women in Belgium risk a maximum fine of 150 euros ($190) if they wear a full face veil in public. Belgium and France banned the wearing of full veils in public last year.
In an emailed statement, Sharia4Belgium said: “The arrest of Abu Imran will bring more people to our side.”Belkacem is due to appear in court next week.
On Tuesday, Belgian right-wingers offered to pay a 250 euros ($310) bounty to anyone who reports a veiled woman to police, in the wake of the face veil riots in Brussels.
Filip Dewinter, a senior figure within Vlaams Belang, a right-wing party, told Reuters the riots had made police apprehensive about enforcing the burqa ban and that the payment should put pressure on authorities to further enforce it. “It’s a textile prison for the women who have to live under it,” he said.
A Brussels police spokesman said he was unaware of the money being offered, but said any officer who sees a woman wearing a niqab would issue a penalty. “When someone is breaking the law we always have to intervene, demonstrations or no, the niqab is prohibited,” he said.
Dewinter said he was not aware how many people had already responded to the offer of a bounty.
A spokeswoman for Belgium’s federal police said the legality of the bounty was a question for the judiciary, but if someone felt insulted by it they could file a complaint with the police.
Police in Belgium are investigating last week’s riots and arrested 13 members of the Islamist group Sharia4Belgium on Sunday, the police spokesman said.
Sharia4Belgium was not immediately available to comment.
– by Ben Deighton in Brussels
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