‘Us & Them’ – Wendy Marijnissen

The Rise of Populism

Us & Them’ – WENDY MARIJNISSEN. BELGIUM.

In many ways Belgium is a divided country, with various communities at odds with one another. Flemish versus Walloon, right versus left, native inhabitants versus foreigners, us versus them. Here, the veil has become a very loaded and contested symbol. A religious as well as a political emblem. A sign of both empowerment as well as victimization.

Since 2009, community schools all over the country banned all religious symbols on their premises, including the Islamic headscarf. Since 2011, Belgium even has a burqa ban.

It’s estimated that only 50 women in Belgium wear this type of garment, out of a Muslim population of over half a million. So why do we need such drastic measures?Why do we end up stigmatizing Islamic veiling? What gives this piece of cloth such negative meaning?

Former socialist Antwerp Mayor Patrick Janssens went a step further and made a law banning any religious symbols…

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