Whether in the media, at school, or work, Muslim women in Belgium have to face a range of structural discriminations. What are these discriminations and how can discriminating behaviours be challenged or changed

Introduction

This report paints a portrait of 11 Belgian women who self-identify as Muslim, by faith or by culture. It sheds light on their experiences encountered throughout their lives in Belgium. Eleven women, all with different life stories, agree on one point: their status as Muslim women has often been the subject of criticism and discrimination and presented numerous challenges to their development in Belgian society. Their stories provide motivational and inspirational ways of overcoming often very difficult obstacles and racism.

In the second part, this report analyses the mainstream press in Belgium and France, with attention paid to the place of the Muslim religion and Muslim women within the columns of various daily newspapers. The idea is to examine the links between how media deals with topics related to Muslims/Islam and how this impacts daily life of Muslim women. The comments under the articles are also considered because media companies have the responsibility to manage them. The articles’ comments are also the subject of many complaints related to hate-speech.

Why did we choose to include the French press into the study on Belgian Muslim women? Because it has become clear that both political and media agendas of our French neighbours influence what happens in Belgium. For the Belgian press, we focused on three major daily newspapers: La Libre Belgique, Le Soir and SudInfo. We also regularly consulted the news sites of the newspaper “La Dernière Heure”, and websites of the public and private television channels “La RTBF” and “RTL Info”. For the French press, our analysis focused on news sites: Le Monde, Le Figaro, and Libération. The research period covered two months, from 15th July to 15th September, 2019.

This report is by no means an empirical or academic study. Instead, it takes a journalistic perspective and seeks to provide a snapshot of real-life experiences of Muslim women in Belgium and indicators which could help in understanding the media treatment of topics that are directly or indirectly linked to Islam and Muslim women.

Finally, the main objective of this analysis is to try to provide solutions and ways forward, in hope to advance social cohesion, and, more generally, to give a more positive image of Muslim women in Belgian society.