With hundreds of thousands of Muslims of different origins living in Belgium, the kingdom is showing how various religions can, though seen tough sometimes, co-exist in a single pluralist country. Moroccans and Turks account for almost 85 percent of the Muslim population nationwide. The remaining includes Albanians, Iranians, and Senegalese and from North African countries like Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. The constitution of Belgium allows the freedom of religious and freedom of expression. This fact allows Muslims to establish worship places. Mosques are established nationwide and can, for example, be seen in the capital, Brussels, and the second largest city, Anvers.
In the final years of the 20th century, Belgium counts some 290 places of Islamic worship. A historic glance of the Muslims in Belgium and Europe in general shows that in the second half of this century with the post-war decolonization era, a massive immigration started to take place of cheap laborers from the
Mediterranean countries, turning Islam into reality in Western Europe. Immigrants were not highly educated and Europe was an attractive money-making place. In Belgium now, the fourth generation of those immigrants has the Belgian nationality as their elders and enjoy full rights of native Belgians.
The European Union (EU) Muslims stand at around 20 million people. Studies showed that Muslims and their mosques are concentrated in the towns, where symbolic attributes of Islamic faith and culture are becoming more and more conspicuous in urban environment.
The fact that number of Muslims in Belgium and indeed in Europe is increasing triggered more space where Muslims, Christians, Jews and secularists co-exist. The growing number of Muslims in EU countries encouraged European governments to grant them rights in relations with education, religious and political activities. Many Europeans, with non-european origins, are politicians and some, in the case of Belgium, were granted ministerial portfolios in the government.
The number of Muslim inhabitants in Belgium is growing, though this swelling includes legal and illegal persons. The criterion of nationality is becoming less and people originating from Muslim countries progressively acquire Belgian nationality. The number of Muslims in Belgian increased by some 100,000 people from the early 1990s until now. It is undeniable that Islam has become widely embraced in the Belgian society. It represents the second largest religious denomination of the country, outnumbering Protestants and Jews.
Since 1975, teaching of Islam was introduced in public schools on the same basis as the other religions. At the meantime, some 700 Muslim teachers are giving Islamic instruction in both primary and secondary schools. A new law has recently paved the way for Muslims to have burial sections in local cemeteries.
European Muslims are now taking up their responsibilities in all domains in their communities as full-fledged Muslim citizens. They will contribute positively and decisively to the realization of a better integration and more harmonious European society.