Accepted Paper:

The appropriation of the urban space by the Muslim community: the case study of Brussels  


Corinne Torrekens (Université libre de Bruxelles)

Paper short abstract:

This contribution will explain (based on pictures, interviews and observations) what kind of mechanisms has made possible the appropriation of the local space by the Muslim community, its inherent identification and the conflicts raised by this new religious presence.

Paper long abstract:

The Muslim immigration to Belgium began in the 1970. It is true to say that during a decade, the religious dimension of this population is very little present. But the process of family reunification raised the issue of religious transmission. Progressively, the Brussels Muslim community has appropriated the local territory. The multiplication of notices, billboards and signs indicating mosques, Islamic associations and ethno-Islamic shops along with sounds and clothes has made Islam increasingly visible in the urban public space and has progressively shown a new religious presence. Moreover, in Brussels, the presence of the Muslim population is a very concentrated, this situation making easier to materialize the Muslim presence in the city. Consequently, in Brussels symbols of Islamic presence are numerous in certain areas. In other words, religion plays a part in the segmentation of the public space in some Brussels areas (Bastenier, 1997). But this Muslim visibility creates Muslim centralities that have meanings and functions for the rest of the population too. Indeed, they contribute to the representation of the city, to its social and mental cartography. Visible signs of Islamity (a minaret on the mosque's frontage, for example) have been invested by a significant part of the local Muslim population as signs of recognition of their Muslim identity. This is not without creating debates, tensions and conflicts about the sharing of the urban space to be dealt by the local political authorities.

Panel P116
How do places make people? Examining the relationship between urban imaginary and Muslim life in European cities