Committee on attacks questions Great Mosque director

Summary

Members of a parliamentary committee investigating the 2016 terrorist attacks in Belgium reacted angrily to the lack of information provided by Jamal Saleh Momenah of the Islamic and Cultural Centre in Brussels

‘Us and them thinking’

An appearance before the parliamentary investigative committee by the director of the Islamic and Cultural Centre (ICC), which runs the Great Mosque in Brussels, was a “missed opportunity” to show any co-operation to combat radicalism, according to committee members.

Jamal Saleh Momenah was invited by the committee, which is investigating last year’s terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport and Maalbeek metro station, to answer questions about the influence of the ICC on radicalised youth.

According to State Security Services, the ICC has been instrumental in spreading Wahhabism, a fundamentalist form of Islam originating in Saudi Arabia. Momenah denied any such influence. “We offer classes on moderate Islam, nothing to do with Wahhabism or Salafism. Come and see for yourselves, our doors are open.”

He also said that there had been no young men associated with the ICC who had gone to fight in Syria, then later admitted there had been one case. And he was unable to explain a bank transfer of €10,000 from the Islamic World League with the message “Syria”.

“You can’t build an inclusive society with someone like this,” said Christof D’Haese (N-VA).

“You have missed an enormous opportunity to present a peaceful Islam and to help overcome Us and Them thinking,” said Meryame Kitir (SP.A). “I’m terribly disappointed.”

“This is a slap in the face for our committee, unworthy of a witness,” said committee chair Patrick Dewael (Open VLD). “Normally I thank each witness, but I am not going to thank you. And I am not going to leave you in peace.”

Photo: Patrick Dewael and the ICC’s Jamal Saleh Momenah during the committee hearing on 15 March
©Bruno Fahy/BELGA