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article imageRight-wing leaders denounce ban on Brussels 'Islam safari'

By AFP     Nov 3, 2017 in World

Two far-right Belgian and Dutch politicians slammed a ban against their planned "Islam safari" through a Brussels immigrant neighbourhood on Friday as a sign of Islam's sway over Europe.

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders and Filip De Winter, a leader of Belgium's Vlaams Belang party, had intended to tour Molenbeek but authorities banned the visit as a threat to public order.

"We want to make a point to show the public, to show the press, to everybody in our respective countries that this is our soil," Wilders told reporters.

"By making that impossible the government or the mayor at least proved that it is not a part of Belgium but it is part of an Islamic enclave and this is totally unacceptable," Wilders said.

Molenbeek was tarred as a hotbed of Islamic extremism after the November 2015 Paris attacks and the March 2016 Brussels bombings because several of the plotters hailed from there.

The authorities on Thursday banned the "Islam safari", with Molenbeek mayor Francoise Schepmans warning of "a serious threat to public order" flowing from their planned protest's "ostensibly insulting and discriminatory nature".

In the end, Dewinter and Wilders spoke to reporters in the federal parliament in Brussels, alleging they were victims of "fatwas" from elected officials who submitted to "Islam's domination".

Dewinter said: "I think this makes very clear that those neighbourhoods in Europe are 'no-go zones'."

Molenbeek -- an impoverished neighbourhood of around 95,000 people, many of them Muslim, from nearly 100 nationalities -- is trying to shed an image as an extremist hotbed.

In 2001, it was in Molenbeek that the assassins of Afghanistan's anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud had stayed.

It was also home to one of the 2004 Madrid train bombers and the main suspect in the 2014 Jewish Museum attack in Brussels, while the perpetrator of a foiled attack on an Amsterdam-Paris train in 2015 stayed in Molenbeek with his sister before boarding in Brussels.

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