Category Archives: Belgium

Time we had a little talk Mr. Freedom of Speech.

It’s time we had a little talk. Yes, you, little Mr. Freedom of Speech. Mr. I’ll say anything I please, wet my bed, consequences be darned. You little Borat, you. The Williamses are coming over, and I want you to promise you won’t use that word we talked about. You are too young to understand this now, but one day you will. Perhaps you will visit New York. And in Harlem, say, right outside St. Nicks you are going to shout the N-word at the top of your lungs. If you’re anything like your daddy, I know you’ll want to.

If you have any money or teeth left, you might buy yourself a ticket to Tel Aviv. Let’s just say it’s a place far, far away. Perhaps you will hop on a funny little bus to Jerusalem, like baby Jesus did. Take a stroll around the orthodox neighbourhood wearing freedom pants that expose your god-given right to tanned knees. No need to say anything really. No need to light up what mommie and daddy call a doobie to get stoned either. Please take your feet off the couch, honey. It’s not because you CAN stand on an expensive leather antique that you have to do it. You will learn this when you grow up. Or maybe not.

And no, you cannot drive the car until you are eighteen years old. You want to watch some more Mickey Mouse? You love cartoons, don’t you. Cartoons are funny, and easy to understand. But you have to know something, honey. When Pluto, or Goofy, of whatever they’re called, are hit by a truck, they really should be dead. Likewise, when you cross the street, we’d like you to be very careful. Not everybody is as smart and prudent as yourself.

Speaking of prudent, a pederast is– we’ll explain later. Let’s just say you want to stay away from Catholic priests. Now, your aunt Barbara is very religious, but she is okay. Luckily the newspaper people don’t generalize about white people. Perhaps it’s good to know that in the seventh century… ugh. Let’s just say things were very different when mommy and daddy were your age. And when your grandma’s grandma’s grandma’s grandma was your age, things were pretty terrible everywhere. People didn’t grow very old. And… There were lots of wars, terrible diseases, people blaming other people for everything that was going wrong, especially if they owed you money. A bit like… well, today. Honey, did you spill orange juice on the carpet?

No, I’m not angry like those people you saw on TV.. I told daddy not to let you watch the news. How do I explain this? A government is a bit like your mommy and daddy. We work to have a house, and eat and buy some nice things, and the rest we give to you. You don’t always understand all the strange things we do, so we tell you a simple story to explain the difficult thing. Mostly we prefer to just put you in front of the television. You watch a simple version of what grownups call ‘re-a-li-ty’. Sometimes it’s almost true. Very often it isn’t. People who are really angry on TV are mostly actors, or poor people who are getting paid to help governments or people who also want to play government get a point across. Only few can tell the difference. They are called a scientist.

Scientists say funny things. And they are always investigating stuff like chemicals, planets, electric things, or Muslims. Some say none of these things really exist, that matter is just a form of energy and ‘Muslim’ is like a group name for more than a billion very different people. Like Christian, or Jew, or left-handed. It means everything and nothing at the same time, subscribing fully to Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty. You either look at the thing as a whole, or you look at the individual. The more you zoom in on the particle, the less you know about the group. And the more you zoom out, the less likely you can say anything meaningful. Not to mention, your observation fundamentally influences the observed. It is very complicated. For now, just remember to eat with your mouth closed, wash your hands, and –oh, there goes the bell. Remember what I told you! Try to act like a grown-up. Then again. Perhaps not.


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Filed under Belgium, Christianity, Islam, Israel, Judaism, Middle East, Revolution, seismic changes, Sinai

Salafists R us

Make that; salafist! Even as I write this my faithful WordPress spelling minder suggests I write ‘falsify’ in stead. As in; they are out to make you believe muhammadan fruitcakes are taking over the whole goddamn place. Your place or my place? From Sinai to the shittier neighborhoods of Brussels. In Egypt they are the ghosts of the tortured let out the box after the demise of Hosni -at least he was our kind of dictator- Mubarak. Disappointed in the Muslim Brotherhood, who are fast becoming a Muslim-Democrat version of Angela Merkel’s CDU, salafists seem to espouse ideas about women comparable to the American Republican Party.

In Belgium, salafists are called Sharia for Belgium, and are represented by a wheeler-dealer car mechanic with a penchant for mixing a thick Antwerp accent with Koranic catch phrases. In one memorable Youtube video the bearded, long-robed clown stood in front of the Atomium, a fifty year-old building that consists of nine giant aluminum balls connected by stiff rods, calling it un-islamic and hoping, in sh’Allah, it would some day crumble spontaneously. Belgians; Christian, Muslim, and non-believer alike all had a good chuckle about that. And by chuckle I mean, irresponsible politicians facing municipal elections later in the year lined up to call for the zealot’s expulsion to a country his parents were born in shortly after World War II. Special laws were mulled to, well, out-law Sharia for Belgium and the kind of burlesque exaggerations a Flemish party representing twenty-five percent of voters gets away with every day.

Salafism is a problem indeed. Every country has them in some or other manifestation. With the good comes the bad they say, and Egypt’s going through some bad shit right now. They; the country, its democrats, women, middle class, poor and unemployed, its youth will deal with these newly-unleashed conservative forces or be consumed by them. Europe has a pretty good idea of what that looks like, however much it chooses to forget. Salafists ‘r us, bearded, with a little mustache, or suited up like, say, the CEO of FN Herstal.

In ‘Sinai’, what appears to be an attack by religious wackos is exactly that, or rather, something else entirely. 

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Filed under Al-Qaeda, Arab Spring, Belgium, Brussels, Cairo, democracy, Egypt, Islam, Middle East, Revolution, seismic changes

Muslims and stuff..

I was eleven years old when I spotted my first Muslim. I didn’t actually know that he was one, or if I did, what it meant. The Flemish countryside wasn’t exactly rife with newcomers back in the days. It was the late eighties. Ronald Reagan had just past the torch to the first of the Bushes. MacGuyver was the coolest man alive, and I dreamt aloud of owning a double tape-deck radio while my peers elsewhere were switching to CD. Like I said; Flemish countryside. And from its deepest recess I moved to a new school. A bigger town. Still bum-fuck “Limbourg” but hey, 60.000 souls and counting, changing, diversifying. Come to think of it, I might as well have landed on Mars.

His name was Chaglar. To me the word ‘Turk’ by dint of, let’s call them uncles and aunts who had seen one or several, carried somewhat of an odor. For some reason the teacher sat me right next to him too. I remember the boy’s constant chewing, inseparable from the small bags of sunflower seeds like Gorbachev from that thing that lived on his forehead. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” I asked. Just making conversation. “Six.” Shit. I was not in Kansas anymore. Both my parents hailed from larger families, but in this day and age? Gosh. We became friends in the manner of a bunch of suburban kids chaperoning a stranded alien. Looking back I think –I know that I was the E.T.; unworldly, withdrawn, preferring Lego over social interaction.

We sort of just walked around the play ground. Other kids played soccer I guess. Outside, baddies tore by on Piaggio scooters, lighting firecrackers, not giving a damn. More a George Lucas than Steven Spielberg type of thing. Now these… this was a different ball park. Moroccans! Muslim. They might as well have been Stormtroopers. Without any reflection I gave them my Jedi middle finger. I don’t know why. Neither of my parents were ever overtly racist in any transmittable sense, not counting ‘innocent’ prejudices or simply not any non-white-Belgian-Catholic friends. Perhaps a slight, hardly perceivable bias eludes the conscious mind. Subliminal, its obvious logical flaws unchallenged, nest in a child’s brain. Then, when you least expect it, you’re shouting an Arabic obscenity some Turkish kid just whispered in your ear.

There I stood, a fence separating my enemies from a coward. The 11 year-old brain has a way of seeing a fence, but not the unguarded entrance in the middle of it. “We eat Belgians raw,” they’d said in response to my taunts, proving my point exactly. Before I knew it I was running for my life. Onto the playground. Safety, and where is a teacher when you need one? Twelve-hour stints of building 747’s, Knight Riders and castles don’t quite prepare one for battle, let alone running away really fast. My bigotry had caught up with me at last and I could feel the cold hand of Islamic justice on my neck. This was it. I was done for. Life had been good for me so far. It was only going to go downhill from here anyway. High school, college, jobs, wife, kids, taxes and old age. I was ready. My formidable opponent, mid-teen, wispy mustache and all, looked me in the eye and said: “Don’t do that.” I agreed.

Sinai is a fictional story of ignorance in the face of “Holy shit, what the hell is going on here? I just came for the snorkeling.”  

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Filed under Belgium, Brussels, Islam, minorities, Sinai