5 Questions for Zakia Khattabi
November 18, 2010, 1:55 pm
[From the L'Anglophone print edition of May-June 2010]
Zakia Khattabi (Ecolo), a member of the Brussels parliament and a Senator in the French-language Community Parliament, is by her own definition a “militant feminist and diversity consultant” whose passion is public policy formation. With the current debate in the Belgian parliament concerning the proposed burqa ban, she agreed to give L’Anglophone's Heidi Bretz an exclusive interview on the subject.
HB: What percentage of Muslims were born in Belgium? And what percentage are immigrants?
ZK: It is impossible for me to respond to this question because in effect, no statistical record exists for religious identity, real or otherwise assumed… Moreover all Muslims are not immigrants and not all immigrants are Muslims, even if they originate from Arab countries.
HB: Why do Muslim immigrants wish to move to Belgium?
ZK: No immigration is caused by religious identity. This being the migration of [citizens from] Arab-Muslim countries, like the majority of economic immigration, [immigrants] want to temporarily leave and move in a desire to make their living abroad [and] to make the lives of their family better in their country of origin. Individual projects are part of the collective dynamic, and therefore the desire is not to live in Belgium but to work abroad for better living at home. The project of moving for the long term or for an indefinite period is only done later and the consequence is that children are born and lasting ties are created…
HB: Do certain Muslims, like many Christians, become more secular when they receive a good education?
ZK: I am not certain that this statement can be verified, even for Christians. We have in Belgium superior denominational education of high quality from which the students do not leave “secularized”.
HB: What are the largest obstacles Muslims must face in Belgium?
ZK: People emigrating from North Africa, for example, are facing difficulties in accessing the job market; they are the object of discrimination for access to certain services (dance halls…). Communities of sub-Saharan origins meet housing discrimination. Moreover, youth coming from these communities equally face integration difficulties because they can feel torn between two cultures, and therefore two loyalties.
HB: What will be, in your opinion, the consequences of the banning of the burqa in Belgium?
ZK: None, except for certain business owners on Avenue Louise and large deluxe hotels, who may lose their clients coming from the Gulf.
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