Make your own free website on

Nur ar-Ramadan

Muslims in Brussels Feel Like Home During Ramadan

By Khaled Shawkat, IOL Correspondent


Touring some districts in Brussels during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, one easily distinguishes the unmistakable aura of Arab cities such as Tangier, Damascus or Cairo.

At districts like Anderlecht and Monlenbeek and streets such as Stalingrad and Rue de Brabant an Arab would feel very much like home with shops opening from dusk to dawn to cater for a sizable Muslim community in the Belgian capital.Kunafa (a dessert spun out of shredded wheat and topped with raisins, nuts and cream), dried fruits and nuts have filled the food shops, which in some cases pushed their way out onto the sidewalk. Colorful lanterns are just about everywhere to add to the strong affinity.

The city further enjoys an economic boom thanks to Ramadan with groceries and bakeries are much sought-after.

No surprise. Most of the supermarkets and restaurants in some areas are owned by Muslim immigrants of Moroccan and Turkish origins, who leave their indelible marks on the European city.

Brussels stands in a stark contrast to other European cities, which oblige Muslim shopkeepers to stick to regular opening hours.

Authorities here do not mind a multi-ethnic society to, in part, give the city an Eastern character to boost tourism and business.Chockablock Mosques

Additionally, mosques in Brussels are chockablock during Ramadan with charity activities, which reach out to Muslims and non-Muslims, on the upswing.

Muslims, men and women, go out in droves to attend congregational and Tarawih prayers at mosques.

The traditional Iftar banquets are also held daily for the poor and students and basically funded by donations raised every week during the Friday prayer.

Al-Mwahdeen mosque, for instance, provides 400 hot meals a day in central Brussels.

There are 700,000 Muslims in Belgium, 150,000 of whom live in the capital Brussels, which has a population of one million people.

There are 300 mosques in Belgium, the oldest is the Islamic center in Brussels, which dates back to 1968.

Islam was recognized in Belgium in 1974 but only in 1998 the Muslim community was represented by a general council.