Brussels Muslims Call for Youth Chaplains

SHAFAQNA – Amid increasing security measures in the European Union countries, leaders of the Belgian Muslim community urged EU officials to recruit chaplains to educate youth about their religion, instead of leaving them in the dark.

“The Muslim youth in Belgium feels excluded from society, not only in terms of unemployment, but in terms of expressing their religion and culture,” Kastit Mustafa, an imam at a local mosque in Brussels, was quoted by Anadolu Agency on Thursday, March 19

Mustafa was one of several other religion experts who spoke at an anti-radicalization conference in Brussels on Tuesday.

The conference was held as EU officials call for boosting security and anti-radicalization methods.

Yet, Brussels Muslim leaders, including Kamel Meziti, board member of the European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion (EMISCO), said that recruiting chaplains is important because there is a lack of imams in Europe who can educate the youth about their religion.

Amid reports that almost 300 people left for Syria over the past two years, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence put Belgium among the most heavily affected countries in Western Europe.

Veysel Filiz, spokesman for the London-based think tank, said that a school system that directs young children from Muslim communities away from extremist elements and towards responsible behavior is important.

“It will give Muslim children a sense of their own religious affiliation and non-Muslim children extra information,” Filiz said.

Belgian Muslims are estimated at 638,000 – out of a 11.2-million-population, according to numbers released by Pew Research Center in October 2010.

More than 25 percent of the population of Brussels is of Muslim origin coming from Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other African countries.

There are 77 mosques or prayer rooms in Brussels and over 300 across Belgium.

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