"They want us to be like Zuhal Demir, so we can find breathing space in society. I am Belgian and have Turkish roots like Demir, but I sure can't attend the events of the PKK, a group that both countries consider terrorists," a municipal official in Brussels, who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted and losing her job, told Daily Sabah. "I cannot spread hate like her to be accepted by a xenophobic party that targets members of a faith daily. All of that for popularity and a ministerial position?"
Zuhal Demir, the former Belgian minister for equal opportunities, recently gave up her Turkish citizenship and further increased her already high criticism toward Muslims, particularly Turks, in the country. She is now calling for a headscarf ban in all schools.
The far-right nationalist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) parliamentarian served as a minister until her party left the coalition government after the prime minister signed the nonbinding U.N. migration pact. Demir is among the most vocal N-VA members when it comes to criticism and social discrimination against Muslims.
During her speech at an N-VA meeting on immigration and integration on Saturday, Demir called for a nationwide ban on headscarves in schools and guidance for Muslims to leave their faith to "opt for a secular life."
"We have succeeded in placing animal rights above religious rights with the prohibition of anesthetized slaughter. Can we now also do that for [Muslim] women's rights?" she said, referring to a controversial ban on halal and kosher slaughtering.
In one of her statements, Demir said, "Muslims cannot adapt to our values" and targeted the Muslim community in Belgium by remarking that Muslims living in Belgium must be assimilated for their own good. Demir added that Muslims can be integrated by force if necessary. The Muslim community in the country, on the other hand, which has made great contributions via their taxes and labor, argues that Demir is not the right person to be a state secretary responsible for equal rights.
In a speech she delivered in parliament in 2011, Demir requested a headscarf ban in parliament. Demir was pleased with the European Court of Human Rights' refusal of complaints issued by employees wearing headscarves in Belgium and France, stating that use of force should also be employed to that end, saying, "Muslims must adopt our values. But not everyone is doing this at their own initiative. Some of them need to be helped or forced."
Demir previously took the stage for her objection of 50 students of Turkish descent in Ghent receiving Turkish language lessons after school with teachers funded by the Republic of Turkey. Many Flemish readers reacted to Demir's latest statements. One reader said that Hebrew lessons are given to Jews in a way similar to Turkish lessons and that these activities are funded by Belgium. Elke Decruynaere, the Alderwoman of Education, Upbringing and Youth for Ghent, indicated that such subjects must not be politicized and pointed out that Polish lessons are also taught after school with contributions by the Polish Embassy.