Sharia Showdown Looms in Brussels-Outdated!

Sharia Showdown Looms in Brussels-Outdated!

Summary of eRumor:
Muslims have become the largest religious group in Belgium, and a group called Sharia4Belgium is pushing to impose Sharia Law there, according to viral reports.
The Truth:
Rumors of a “Sharia showdown” in Brussels are outdated.
Sharia4Belgium disbanded in 2012 when its leaders were arrested for supporting terrorism. Forty-five of its members were sentenced to prison and a judge said Sharia4Belguim was a “terrorist organization.”
Word that a “Sharia Showdown Looms in Brussels” first surfaced in early 2012. The Christian Broadcast Network (CBN) reported on the efforts of Sharia4Belguim to impose Sharia Law there and elsewhere in Europe in March of that year:
The broadcast said that Sharia4Belguim was behind the Sharia showdown. The “most confrontational” Muslim group in Brussels interrupted a public debate between moderate Muslims, and reporter Dale Hurd Spoke with Abu Imram, the leader of the group, who said that Muslims would rule Belgium, and the world:

We believe that Sharia will dominate. Sharia will be implemented worldwide… Sharia is Islam, to be clear. There is no difference between Islam and Sharia, it’s just a name. Democracy is the opposite of Islam and Sharia. We believe that Allah is the legislator, Allah make the laws, he tells us what’s allowed and forbidden.

The report went viral in 2012 and sparked fear that radical Islamists led by Sharia4Belguim would take over Brussels, the capital of Europe. Shortly after the CBN report, however, the leaders of Sharia4Belguim were arrested for supporting terrorism, and the group fell apart.
A massive trial played out in Antwerp over the next three years, and a judge sentenced 45 members of a Sharia4Belguim to prison in February 2015, the BBC reports

The group sent recruits to militant groups such as Islamic State (IS), prosecutors said.

Only seven of the accused were at the court for the ruling. Most others are said to still be in Syria, and some may already be dead.

One high-profile member, Jejoen Bontinck, got a suspended sentence of 40 months. He made headlines after his father travelled to Syria and brought him home, and later appeared in the trial as a prosecution witness.

Prosecutors said Fouad Belkacem brainwashed dozens of young men to fight with jihadi groups in Syria. The court heard evidence that he used lectures and social media to recruit and radicalise people.

Some of the witnesses accused him of indoctrinating them. Prosecutors also presented wiretaps and video images as evidence which, they argued, proved Sharia4Belgium members were involved in terror activities. Mr Belkacem denied the charges against him.

In an open letter to the press he said that he “never recruited, incited or sent” fighters to Syria. His lawyers argued that he did not buy anyone flights to Syria or introduce his followers to jihadists.

Still, just seven of the 45 members of a Sharia4Belgium were present at the sentencing hearing. The other 38 member were believed to be dead or still fighting in Syria, Vice reports:

The correctional tribunal in the port city of Antwerp sentenced Fouad Belkacem, the group’s 32-year-old leader who goes by the alias “Abu Imran,” to 12 years in prison. The other 44 members on trial were sentenced to between three and 15 years in jail, with some of the sentences being suspended.

This is the biggest-ever trial of its kind in Belgium. Only seven defendants were present in court, with the remainder believed to be either dead or still fighting in Syria. The photograph above shows Michael ‘Younes’ Delefortrie outside the main entrance of the courthouse.

Sharia4Belgium — a group once credited with being a major source of Belgian jihadists to Syria — disbanded in 2012 when Belkacem was arrested and sentenced to two years for inciting hatred and violence towards non-Muslims. But, according to the court, the organization continued to operate as a recruitment cell into 2013.

Old reports of a Sharia showdown in Belgium were recycled in 2015, leading many to believe that Sharia4Belguim was still actively campaigning for Sharia Law there. Blog sites like CrossMap re-reported the three-year old CBN story as breaking news and didn’t include details about the group’s leader being jailed, or the group disbanding. That’s why we’re calling this one “outdated.”