Call for unity after killing of imam


THE KILLING of an imam in an arson attack on a Shia mosque in Brussels was widely condemned yesterday as Muslim leaders called for unity.

Local prosecutors said the suspect, a self-described Muslim, produced a knife and an axe when he showed up at the mosque in the Anderlecht district on Monday evening.

He then proceeded to douse fuel in the building before setting it alight.

The imam, Sheikh Abdallah Dadou, a father of four in his 40s, died from inhaling toxic fumes and another two people were injured.

The authorities are investigating whether tension between some people in the Shia and Sunni communities lay behind the attack.

The alleged attacker is reported to be a member of the Salafist group, a strict order within the Sunni branch of Islam, although this remains subject to investigation.

It was reported in Brussels last night that the man, who is said to hold a Moroccan passport, had said he acted alone.

Although his motives remain unclear, he is said to have shouted about the conflict in Syria as he entered mosque and to have been traumatised by the images of violence from uprising in that country.

Semsettin Ugurlu, president of the Muslim executive of Belgium, appealed for calm and restraint. “Nothing can justify such violence, whoever the perpetrators and their motivations,” he said.

“The Muslim executive of Belgium invites all Muslims to work together to strengthen dialogue and living together among all religious and cultural trends that make up the Muslim community in Belgium.”

Belgium has a large immigrant population, with more than 600,000 Muslims representing 6 per cent of the total population in the country and more than a quarter of the population in the greater Brussels area.

Within the Muslim community, Sunnis form the majority. Community leaders met yesterday to work for calm.

Prime minister Elio di Rupo condemned the attack. “My first thoughts go out to the victim and those close to him, and I strictly condemn the violence used.”

The crisis response unit of the interior ministry held an emergency meeting yesterday to discuss the situation. The government has pledged to take all measures necessary to prevent any repeat attack.