In a BBC Arabic interview, Salah Echallaoui, head of the Muslim Executive in Belgium, said: "We must not allow preachers and religious instructors to be brought from countries that spread the ideology of religious extremism," adding that "Belgium cannot continue to accept people who call for religious extremism and for the exclusion of others." The interview aired on April 23, 2016.
Following are excerpts
Interviewer: There are 40 Jihadists out of every million people in Belgium, which is the No. 1 European exporter of Jihadists to Syria and Iraq.
Salah Echallaoui: Perhaps this is due to the religious liberties that exist in Belgium, and the lack of determination in dealing with the extremist ideological movements...
Interviewer: Are you calling for increased restrictions on religious liberties in Belgium, or what?
Interviewer: No, but the extremist religious ideology, which rejects pluralism, shared European values, and coexistence, must not exist in our country. For example, we must not allow preachers and religious instructors to be brought from countries that spread the ideology of religious extremism. Belgium cannot continue to accept people who call for religious extremism and for the exclusion of others. This is the responsibility of the political circles.
As Muslims, we must reinforce the moderate religious ideology, and the religious institutions that operate in the framework of coexistence, and of shared values. In addition, sister, the international problems must be dealt with, because they serve as a reason for religious extremism worldwide. There are problems and conflicts in the Middle East, and if they are not resolved - and this is the responsibility of the international community - this region will forever sow and export this ideology, the evil of which will reach Europe and elsewhere.
Interviewer: The people living in the Molenbeek neighborhood have specific complaints. They accuse you, as well as the government, of not caring about them, and not listening to their complaints. But they have one complaint that is directed explicitly at you. They say that you cooperate with the government and inform on them.
Salah Echallaoui: This is not true. It is not our role, as the Muslim Executive in Belgium, to act like the police or a security agency. It is not our job to inform on the Muslims or on anyone else. These accusations are false, and we reject them. Our organization has a religious role, which it has played for years. The state does not need the Executive organization to inform on [Muslims]. Whoever makes this claim should provide the truth. We refuse to be a tool used for informing on people.