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Monday, February 06, 2006

Blasphemy in Belgium

Even Belgium didn’t escape the worldwide frenzy of Muslims protesting against the alleged blasphemy against their prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper. Yesterday, a spontaneous protest march crossed Brussels, gathering momentum and people as it went along. It ended at the buildings of the Flemish and French-speaking television channels, where the protesters demanded both stations to stop emitting the infamous picture. Meanwhile, all their protests have made many newspapers across Europe take over the picture in which Mohammed is depicted with a turban or headscarf in the form of a bomb.

It’s strange to look at this global attack on all things Danish and Norwegian – the second country where the cartoons were published. ‘Provocative’ and ‘controversial’ are not exactly the first words that pop into one’s mind when these countries are mentioned. Meanwhile, I pity those poor people working for the Danish/Norwegian embassies in the Muslim world. EU buildings are also a prime target, and in several countries, people have called for a boycott against Danish/Norwegian/EU products. This included Palestine, which made me wonder if those countries would also call for a boycott on EU subsidies and aid assistance.

The demonstration in Brussels on the other hand was peaceful and relatively calm, despite being unauthorised. This stood in sharp contrasts to events in many other countries, which shows that Muslims in Belgium are integrated quite well and have taken over some of our lethargy.

Belgians react in a much calmer way to blasphemy than some people in the Middle East. When Belgium’s largest brewer InBev (the former Interbrew) announced that it would increase the size of the beer glasses with 2 centilitres, going from the traditional 33 cl. to an unheard of 35 cl, no-one started to fling bricks and iron bars towards buildings. There was some protest from the pub owners, because these two centilitres don’t make much difference for the customers (they claimed), but on a whole barrel it does make a difference for the pubs. And it’s difficult for them to raise the price of beer, because already less and less people are visiting pubs so more and more of them go bankrupt.

Interbrew reacted by saying that the idea wasn’t that the glasses be fuller, but that the foamy top of the beer should be made larger to a full two centimetres, because that was ‘what the costumers wanted’. Let me immediately intervene here in the name of the Belgian beer drinkers and state clearly and officially that this is bullshit! Granted, we don’t like those English froth-less beers where the glass is full but the beer is flat and without energy. But that’s no reason to turn our beers into a Parisian coffee with whipped cream on top and a biscuit on the side.

In any other country, such blasphemy would lead to a full scale revolt in which rulers get hanged, buildings get torched and public morals sink to an all time low making it possible to get a free shag on every street corner. But not here, reserved, law-abiding and calm as we are (triple ahem). You don’t see us throwing stuff through windows and raiding other people’s embassies.

Now if someone were to draw a picture of a pint of beer with the foamy top shaped like a turban shaped like an old-fashioned bomb…

THEN things would turn ugly!

Posted by Bart at 7:26 PM
Categories: Being Belgian

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