Islam in Belgium

Islam in Belgium is a minority religion and the second largest religion in the country after Christianity. The exact number of Muslims in Belgium is unknown but various sources estimate that 4.0% to 6.5% of the country's population adheres to Islam. The first registered presence of Islam in Belgium was in 1829, but most Belgian Muslims are first-, second-, or third-generation immigrants that arrived after the 1960s.

History

The first registered presence of Islam in Belgium was in 1829, a year prior to the country’s independence in 1830.[1]:223 A report by the Turkish consul in Antwerp estimated roughly 6,000 Muslims in Belgium at the time. During WWII, French Muslim soldiers from French West Africa were stationed in the southeast. In 1964, bilateral labour immigration agreement were signed between Belgium, Turkey, and countries in the Maghreb. Over 10,000 workers from these countries moved to Belgium and mostly worked in low-skilled jobs such as coal mining, steelmaking, the automobile industry, etc. This stopped in 1974 when all foreign manual labour was banned from entry into the country and, in the same year, Islam was officially recognised as a religion in Belgium.[1]:224

According to a 2006 opinion poll, 61% of the Belgian population thought tensions between Muslims and other communities would increase in the future.[2]

In 2011, Belgian authorities instituted a ban on face-covering attire in public, which meant the wearing of the Niqāb and burqa were considered incompatible with Belgian society.[3]The ban was challenged by two Muslim women in first the Constitutional Court and then the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), but was upheld.[4]

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