Wednesday, August 23, 2006


This article about Belgium from yesterday's Wall Street Journal is chock full of interesting tidbits. Try this:
In Brussels, notes Joël Rubinfeld of the Atlantis Institute think tank, half of the Socialist Party's 26-member slate in the city's 75-seat parliament is Muslim. In the commune of Molenbeek, longstanding Socialist mayor Philippe Moureaux has made Halal meals standard in all schools; police officers are also barred from eating or drinking on the streets during Ramadan.
The police are barred from eating or drinking on the streets during Ramadan. That is amazing. I know nothing of that town, but just to think that there is a town in W. Europe where Islam is so prominent that during Ramadan the local constable is not allowed to gnaw on an apple as he makes his rounds is way beyond what I would have imagined. I wonder if the police are barred from publicly eating meat on a Friday during Lent? (Yeah, I know.)

And, what about the Halal meat in schools? Does that mean you can't get a ham sandwich in the town's local schools? Would you be allowed to bring one in? And, if a non-Muslim student did bring in a ham sandwich and passed it on to a Muslim, what would happen to the 'ham pusher'?

Then there's this:
Now take the Vlaams Belang (Flemish Interest), the secessionist Flemish Party previously known as the Vlaams Blok until a court ruled it illegal in 2004. The Blok has longstanding links to Nazi collaborators. One of the party's founding members is Karel Dillen, who in 1951 translated into Flemish a French tract denying the Holocaust (possibly the only French text for which a Vlams Blok party member has ever shown sympathy.) For many years, the party's chief selling point was its call to forcibly deport immigrants who failed to assimilate. It also made plain its sympathies with other far-right wing European parties, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front in France.

But that's changing. Younger party leaders, realizing their anti-Semitic taint was poison, began making pro-Israel overtures. And the party's tough-on-crime, hostile-to-Muslims stance began to attract a considerable share of the Jewish vote, particularly among Orthodox Antwerp Jews who felt increasingly vulnerable in the face of the city's hostile Muslim community. Today, Vlaams Belang is the largest single party in the country.
Jews are voting for a party with "longstanding links to Nazi collaborators".

And, this:
Amid a pervasive and growing sense of lawlessness -- Belgium's per capita murder rate, at 9.1 per 100,000 is nearly twice that of the U.S. …
I think I'll see if I can verify that one. I don't know why, but I find it hard to imagine that this is true. What about the stereotype of the gun-happy American and all those well-publicized murders, etc.?

Interesting. I guess it's not all chocolates and beer.