Great Mosque of Brussels
The Great Mosque of Brussels is the oldest mosque in Brussels. It is located in the Cinquantenaire Park. It is also the seat of the Islamic and Cultural Centre of Belgium. The original building was built by architect Ernest Van Humbeek in an Arabic style, to form the Oriental Pavilion of the National Exhibition in Brussels in 1880. At that time the pavilion housed a monumental painting on canvas: “Panorama of Cairo”, by the Belgian painter Emile Wauters, which enjoyed major success. However, lack of maintenance in the twentieth century caused the building to deteriorate gradually. In 1967, King Baudouin lent the building to King Faisal ibn Abd al-Aziz of Saudi Arabia with a 99-year rent-free lease, on an official visit to Belgium as part of negotiations to secure oil contracts. The buildings was turned into a place of worship for the use Muslim immigrants to Belgium, which at the time were notably from Morocco and Turkey. As part of the deal, imams from the Gulf area would be hired although their orthodox salafist were a different tradition, according to George Dallemagne, to that of the more open-minded immigrants but their teachings would over time turn them into a more orthodox tradition and imams would discourage immigrants from integrating into the Belgian society, according to George Dallemagne. The mosque, after a long reconstruction carried out at the expense of Saudi Arabia by Tunisian architect Boubaker, was inaugurated in 1978 in the presence of Khalid ibn Abd al-Aziz and Baudouin. The Mosque's role the leading religious institution within the Belgian Islamic community—as well as its intended role as diplomatic bridge between the Saudi and Belgian monarchies—has been a point of debate since its re-foundation. Imams and officials have come out to repeat the message that Islam is a religion of peace and has nothing to do with the terrorists in the aftermath of the November 2015 Paris attacks. The ICC's director Khalid Alabri who propagated the Takfiri dogma was expelled by Belgian authorities for his extreme views in 2012.