For at least three centuries, citizens of Holsbeek, Belgium have celebrated Christmas by putting a Christmas tree and model of baby Jesus in the town square. But that tradition has come to an end in 2016 for fear of offending the town’s four Muslims.
Achiel Claes, a former town alderman for the Christian-Democrats, said: “The reason was that it would be ‘too provocative for Muslims’.
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“There are only four Muslims living in town and they will never complain that there is a nativity scene in city hall.”
Mr Claes said he could “understand” if a nativity scene was banned in Molenbeek – where the terrorists behind the November 2015 Paris attacks lived.
The Express report:
But in the sleepy town of Holsbeek – 20 miles outside Brussels, the home of the European Parliament – the move has been branded “ridiculous”.
Belgian State Secretary of Asylum and Migration Theo Francken said it was a “matter of principle” to him.
“Some people want to take away all our traditions, but I will resist that.”
The ban was introduced after the town secretary allegedly complained about the nativity scene.
But Annelies Vander Bracht, from the town’s Green party, said the decision had nothing to do with Muslims.
She said: “We did it because there needs to be a separation between church and state.
“Each municipality can interpret that in its own way. To be as neutral as possible, we took away the nativity scene.
“Gays or victims of paedophile priests would not be too thrilled by a symbol of the church either.
“Let’s keep it in the private sphere, I think that is the smartest way. At home I do have a nativity scene as it is nice for the kids.”
The decision was fully supported by the ruling coalition of the Christian-Democrats and the Green party.
But the Flemish-nationalist N-VA party called for locals to attend the town’s next assembly meeting – and to each bring a nativity scene with them.