October 2020 – I may never be able to convince a Trump voter not to vote for Trump, but I can tell them what it’s like for an American to live with “socialist” healthcare and education in Europe.
September 2020 – As it stumbles from one political crisis to the next, Belgium faces a profound existential threat. But can the slow disintegration of the Belgian state be reversed and, if so, how?
May 2020 – Belgium has long been written off as a dysfunctional and failing state, yet its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been surprisingly functional and successful. This highlights how effective healthcare acts as society’s immune system.
January 2020 – For Western Muslims, Christmas is just outside their doorsteps. For some, Christmas even skips merrily in from the cold and crosses the threshold into their homes.
March 2019 – The death of Shamima Begum’s infant son underscores the injustice of depriving alleged terrorists and jihadis of their citizenship. It also sets a dangerous precedent that can come back to haunt and hurt everyone in society.
February 2019 – While it is important for children to learn about religion, they should not be schooled in any particular faith.
December 2018 – To see modern Spain’s flourishing design and innovation landscape today, it is hard to imagine a time when it was anything different. But have you ever heard of the Pegaso (Pegasus) Z-102 sports car?
November 2018 – As Belgium’s revamped Africa museum prepares to re-open its doors, Christian Nielsen checks out its glistening new restaurant.
May 2018 – The Virgin Mary appeared eight times to a child in Belgium and the rest is ‘alternative history’
November 2017 – Unlucky days can sometimes turn out to be a different kind of lucky… the tortuous variety.
October 2016 – The Israeli government fears and combats peace and rights activists with greater gusto and urgency than armed extremists.
April 2016 – Rather than airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS), Belgium should strike at the root causes of homegrown extremism.
March 2016 – In Brussels, people are resigned to a stark new reality of uncertainty and insecurity until a way is found to channel destructive energy positively.
March 2016 – The terrorist attacks in Brussels will reinforce the idea that returning jihadists pose an existential threat to Europe. But the facts say otherwise.
December 2015 – In many ways, radicals in Brussels are more a product of the local language war than they are of global holy war.
November 2015 – Belgium says it is working to combat radicalisation in Brussels. But is it doing enough to counter jihadist narratives and address exclusion?
November 2015 – Despite the racism contained in Tintin and other classic children’s tales, I believe that children should be exposed to them.
September 2015 – Tribalism and sectarianism afflicts Western societies too. So why is that they seem to be tearing the Middle East apart?
June 2015 – Father Damien’s dying wish of marbles for his children may seem odd, but this saint’s caring for lepers can teach us a lot about selfless sacrifice.
April 2015 – Europe’s history of total war and mass displacement can help create more sympathy for today’s refugees and keep hope alive in the Middle East.
February 2015 – Despite the crisis in traditional media, the Brussels press corps continues to survive and thrive, but not without difficulties.
July 2014 – Protestants are the chosen people and Western Europe and America their Promised Lands, according to Israelism and Christian Zionism.
Mei 2014 – De nationale voetbalgekte verbergt de realiteit dat België al twee staten is. Ik gebruik mijn stem als lijm die kan helpen om België samen te houden.
May 2014 – With Belgium little more than a hollow shell, I’ll be using my vote as a squirt of glue to help hold the collapsing country together.
April 2013 – The Boston marathon bombings have refocused attention on the threat of “homegrown terrorism”. But there is a much more dangerous domestic threat.
April 2013 – Multiculturalism is enriching and as easy as child’s play. But as the winds of intolerance blow harder, it may become a liability for my son and his generation.
February 2013 – A new museum in Belgium seeks to make the Holocaust relevant for contemporary visitors by placing it in the wider context of human rights.
January 2013 – Gun and knife violence gets a lot of public attention but one killer prowling our streets goes largely unnoticed… apathy.
December 2012 – Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) brings joy to millions in the Low Countries. But his dark-faced helpers, Zwarte Pieten, are racist and a colonial throwback.
October 2012 – The Belgian magazine Knack did something shocking, brilliant, or lazy… depending on how you look at it.
January 2012 – As Belgium toys with the idea of allowing mothers to pass on their surnames, is there a way to make naming practices fairer?
September 2011 – Belgium was one of the ‘Friends of Libya’ in Paris. But does the prime minister realise that these Libyan ‘friends’ include a former al-Qaeda fighter?
March 2011 – No this isn’t a perverse way of describing French kissing, but a new theory of how two languages can peacefully co-exist in one country.
February 2011 – Arab revolutionary fever has spread to Europe as Belgians raise their freedom fries, not to bring down a regime but to ask for one to be formed.
January 2011 – Egypt’s ‘baksheesh’ culture helps poor people get by and maintains relative social peace, but it encourages subservience.
December 2010 – Among the most hated people in Europe, Roma are treated as second-class citizens at home and abroad. Nikolaj Nielsen spent some time with members of a Roma family.
November 2010 – ‘Spurned skydiver murders love rival in Belgium’. Big news in a little country, and a film just waiting to be made.
November 2010 – On KALW’s weekly media round table, Khaled Diab took part in a radio debate on the rise of far-right politics on both sides of the Atlantic.
November 2010 – Some in the west are more likely to believe in elves in Middle Earth than in Arab men in the Middle East who are secular and do not oppress women.
October 2010 -‘Catholic’ education thrives in Belgium, but the decision between principle and pragmatism is not easy when choosing a school.
September 2010 – Moving house is a back-breaking master class in logistics. But it’s also an emotional rite – moving from what was to what will be, purging yourself of possessions and packing some away for good.
July 2010 – The fifth anniversary of the 7 July attacks has refocused attention on Islamist terrorism, but the neo-Nazi threat goes largely unnoticed.
June 2010 – The product of an odd political marriage between left wing Belgian unionists and radical Flemish nationalists could be the world’s first openly gay male premier.
May 2010 – Belgian MPs raised eyebrows with their recent banning of facial coverings. Now, with a twist, factions have set their sights on smokers and work.
May 2010 – Het zogenaamde ‘burqaverbod’ is een vrouwvriendelijke wetvoorstel.
May 2010 – Belgium’s effort to ban the face veil is a statement of female empowerment and a vote against religious fundamentalism.
April 2010 – Silent nights, genuinely blue skies and the sense that nature is finally fighting back. Am I the only one who enjoyed Iceland’s volcanic eruptions?
April 2010 – As we approach the 50th anniversary of independence, how successful has Congo’s post-colonial experience been?
April 2010 – A Belgian far-right politician is in hot water for uploading a video of an attempted break-in. Was he right or should he have gone to the police?
April 2010 – In multicultural families, deciding on where to raise your child is no easy matter and has profound implications for the future.
April 2010 – I spend so much time sorting my rubbish that I’m thinking of putting it on my CV as a skill or taking it up as a profession.
February 2010 – Belgian media hysteria over crime and calls for zero-tolerance policing miss the real issue – social exclusion in the inner city.
February 2010 – Big corporations are using the banking crisis as an excuse for exploiting cheap labour. Is it time for a global minimum wage?
January 2010 – Lean, green commuting machines will be the new black for Belgian fleet car managers this year.
January 2010 – Like shrimps on the barbie and hard yakka*, the great outdoors is one of the binding contracts of being Australian. Except it really isn’t.
January 2010 – Linda De Win is clever, competitive and middle-aged – would Belgians respect her TV victories if only she were male too?
December 2009 – The British are famously reserved, but so are the Belgians. Let’s break the ice and make the public sphere more friendly.
November 2009 – Much as we’d like our children to hold the same things dear as we do, we should have enough faith in them to let them choose their own belief system.
October 2009 – Northern Ireland offers one model for Israeli-Palestinian peace. But a dose of Belgian pragmatism wouldn’t go amiss either.
October 2009 – Having kids is no longer the preserve of married couples, or couples full stop, it now seems. That’s all good and well, but does it mean dads will soon be surplus to requirements? No way!
September 2009 – (press release) Landmine survivors call on governments to live up to their Mine Ban Treaty promises.
July 2009 – Beauty, failure, enchantment, … you name the emotion and poetry’s got it. But this noble art is not for everyone. And it’s by no means easy to call yourself a poet.
June 2009 – Despite the current crisis in the property market, the belief that buying a house is a long-term winner persists. But does the house always win? More
May 2009 – The Belgian city of Ghent has declared Thursdays ‘meat free’. Should cities around the world also join the vegolution?
February 2009 – Are religious immigrants within their rights to boycott an ‘unspeakable’ integration course in Belgium?
It is time European countries acknowledged the part soldiers from their former colonies played in the First World War.
October 2008 – Was Belgian television justified in pulling an episode of a cooking programme featuring Hitler’s favourite dish?
September 2008 – A murder trial is delving into the mystery of why and how a young Belgian was stabbed to death for his MP3 player during rush hour in the capital’s busiest train station.
Archives from Diabolic Digest
Taking Hitler off the menu
November 2008 – Was Belgian television justified in pulling an episode of a cooking programme featuring Hitler’s favourite dish? Read on
Free at last
April 2008 – With Belgium on the verge of collapse, the quaint city of Ghent has declared its independence from Flanders. Read on
An uncertain future
January 2008 – The year that was: As an enlarged EU searched for a raison d’etre, Belgium spent much of this year struggling with its own identity crisis. Read on
Death in fast motion
January 2008 – Grief at the loss of a loved one knows no cultural boundaries but increasing mobility may be making death a lonelier affair. Read on
Voices in the wilderness
November 2007 – Even with a Nobel peace prize, there’s a limit to what Al Gore can do, and so a group of determined eco-worriers are making plans … Read on
October 2007 – Cities across the world took a small step for pedestrian-kind during car-free day this weekend. Now it’s time to take a giant leap. Read on
War of words at the heart of Europe
September 2007 – The collapse of talks to form a federal government is testing Belgium’s legendary capacity for political compromise to the limit. Read on
June 2007 – Across Europe, the real challenge when dealing with minority groups is not integration but marginalisation. Read on
Commuting for dummies
April 2007 – In the last year and a half, Khaled Diab has discovered that commuting is something of a professional activity and if there are no management training programmes on how to become an effective commuter and influence people, there ought to be! Read on
Speaking the language of unity
March 2007 – Elio Di Rupo, the flamboyant chief of the Walloon Parti Socialiste, has called for a network of bilingual schools in Brussels and areas at the so-called ‘language frontiers’. Despite the dismissal of some Flemish politicians, his proposal makes both pedagogical and political sense. In fact, it should be applied across the country. Read on
X Pat meets Spock’s parents
January 2007 – X Pat is invited to a Star Trek convention but winds up in a maternity ward where he midhusbands an infant half Vulcan. Read on
X Pat: Do not release until Xmas
December 2006 – It’s nearly Xmas and X Pat finds himself in the most delicious quandary of his life. Read on
Virgin vote at the ballot box
October 2006 – Khaled Diab gives up his electoral chastity and gets a taste of political participation. Read on
X Pat and the chocolate factory
September 2006 – X Pat, the xpat xtraordinaire and xample world citizen, in his quest to come to terms with his first name winds up behind a deranged genius’s chocolate bars. Read on
Gent into the groove…
September 2006 – Every July, carnival mania descends on the picturesque and offbeat university city of Gent. As Khaled Diab finds out, the annual Gentse Feesten has something for everyone: the hip or the hippy, the mainstream or the outlandish. And it ain’t just about music, it’s also about comedy, performing arts… and politics. Read on
Exploring Belgium’s cultural identity
September 2006 – Describing the intricacies of culture is like mapping the human genome – pitted with difficulties. Khaled Diab spoke to a number of Belgians to find out what makes the country tick culturally. Read on
Grooming yourself for Belgian society
September 2006 – Any advice on ‘etiquette’ must be taken with a pinch of salt. It is up to the individual to decide how much to behave or misbehave in any given situation. With that disclaimer, here is a short guide to Belgian social conventions. Read on
More to life than window dressing
August 2006 – Badra Djait, an advisor to Flemish integration minister Marino Keulen, was born and raised among Gent’s small but close-knit Algerian community. Here, she recounts what it was like growing up as a woman in two cultures and traditions. Read on
Het pad naar persoonlijke onafhankelijkheid
Badra Djait, een adviseur van Vlaams Minister van Inburgering Marino Keulen, is in Gent geboren en opgegroeid als een lid van de kleine en hechte Algerijnse gemeenschap daar. Hier, vertelt ze haar ervaring als een vrouw die leeft tussen twee culturen. Lees meer
X Pat: Quantum leaps, beer and knitting
August 2006 – X Pat, the xpat xtraordinaire and xample world citizen, invites Diabolic Digest readers to join him on an absurdist tour of the Belgian sociosphere. Read on
Masters of the university – may the course be with you!
August 2006 – In the second of a two-part series, Khaled Diab investigates what Belgium has to offer in English to graduate students. Read on
Should I stay or should I go?
June 2006 – Khaled Diab investigates what Belgium can offer those students who want to take undergraduate courses in English. Read on
Terror in the park
May 2006 – A racially-inspired shooting spree in Antwerp which left two people dead – including a toddler – and one seriously hurt has refocused Belgian public attention on the issue of urban violence and racism. Read on
Belgium needs more personal social responsibility
May 2006 – The ‘silent march’ was a moving expression of popular sentiment at the tragic murder of a teenager who has become known simply as Joe. But calls for more police and ‘zero tolerance’ will not prevent a repeat of this tragedy. People need to realise that the system does not have all the answers and it is time for citizens to take on more personal social responsibility. Read on
Conversion is not a crime
December 2005 – Muriel Degauque has the dubious distinction of being the first white European female suicide bomber. Shocking as this is, suggestions that we have reached a dangerous turning point and that converts are brainwashed fanatics and their partners are comic-book villains are unfair to the vast majority of converts and to non-converts married to Muslims.. Read on
Encounter with a celebrity saint
December 2005 – Never having believed in Santa as a child, Khaled Diab was surprised to run into the elusive Sinterklaas on a desolate, windswept beach in the Netherlands. Read on
Vrij van angst
By Katleen Maes
September 2005 – EEN zonnige lentedag in april, in de vroegere grensstreek tussen Noord- en Zuid-Jemen. Drie meisjes van 11 hoeden schapen in een idyllisch berglandschap. Plotseling struikelt een van hen, haar voet zit vast in een gat in de grond. Nog geen vijf seconden later, een enorme knal. Ze heeft in het gat een landmijn geraakt, verstopt in een wit gemarkeerde en dus – zo dachten de meisjes – veilige zone. Ze had geluk, enkele uren later was ze in het ziekenhuis, levend en wel, al mist ze nu een been en enkele vingers. Read on
From nature to naturalisation
July 2005 – This month, Belgium celebrates its 175th birthday. Khaled Diab, its newest citizen, reflects on his newfound Belgianess and all things Belgian. Read on
The language placebo
January 2005 – To hear some politicians speak, one would think that language and culture were the panacea for all Belgium’s social and economic woes vis-à-vis its immigrant community. Read on
Encounter with a celebrity saint
December 2004 – Never having believed in Santa as a child, Khaled Diab is surprised to run into the elusive Sinterklaas on a desolate, windswept beach in the Netherlands. Read on
Behind the gates of hell
April 2004 – The mayhem and anarchy gripping Iraq lend a deadly ring of truth to early Arab warnings that the US-led invasion would “open the gates of hell”. Khaled Diab visits a photo exhibition in Brussels that puts a human face on the suffering beyond that infernal doorway. Read on
Working on the mine ban
By Katleen Maes
March 2004 – Five years after an unprecedented alliance of governments and human rights groups signed a major international treaty to ban landmines, 20,000 people a year are still killed or injured by the weapons. Belgium has been at the forefront of efforts to reduce that horrific toll, but there is still a great deal of work to be done. Read on
Justice at last
By Katleen Maes
March 2004 – Belgium’s ‘trial of the century’ has kicked off in the sleepy Walloon town of Arlon. After seemingly endless delays, notorious paedophile, rapist and suspected child killer Marc Dutroux is finally coming face-to-face with a jury. Read on
A state of pragmatism
March 2004 – As one of the original six founders of the European Union, Belgium has been a powerful driving force behind the continent’s unification. However, after nearly 174 years of pragmatic nationhood, the marriage between its two main communities has become increasingly shaky. What are the prospects for enduring national unity and how much does it matter in a borderless Europe? Read on
More to Brussels than meets the eye
March 2004 – As the European Union prepares for a political shift eastwards, its famously Byzantine politics will get just that bit more confusing. The new member states may make the EU’s bureaucratic landscape seem greyer, but the accompanying influx of thousands of eastern Europeans will make the cultural kaleidoscope of Brussels, the city that plays host to so many of its institutions, that much more colourful. Read on
The ties that bind
Katleen Maes and Khaled Diab
February 2004 – Congolese President Joseph Kabila was in Brussels on Monday as part of a four-nation European tour. But as he seeks financial and political backing here, Belgian troops are already on the ground in Congo helping to train the country’s new army. Read on
January 2004 – Some prominent politicians – first in France and now in Belgium – are calling for Islamic headscarves to be banned in schools. Rather than simply guaranteeing the separation of church and state, such a ban is more likely to alienate the Muslim community – particularly women – and harm multiculturalism. Read on
Migrating from the margins
November 2003 – As a reflection of Belgium’s multicultural reality, just under 10 percent of the country’s population is foreign. While the EU component of this population has the right to vote in local elections in Belgium and in European elections, the non-EU contingent goes mostly unheard and unseen on the political radar screen. Read on
September 2003 – Belgian trains are about to become off-limits to smokers and the debate over extending the ban to other public spaces simmers on in Belgium – and across Europe. Read on
More to Brussels than meets the eye
September 2003 – To many outsiders, Brussels is synonymous with bureaucracy – a Kafkaesque nightmare devoid of local colour. But to really get to know it, you have to get under the city’s skin. Read on
July 2003 – Even after 173 years of nationhood, the Belgian state appears as implausible as ever. In a country united by pragmatism and divided by language, will Belgium be torn apart by the force of words or will it be held together with the power of good sense? Read on
Adieu war crimes law
July 2003 – As the International Criminal Court celebrates its first anniversary, Belgium has decided to scrap its controversial ‘genocide law’. This may please allies and protect business interests, but the decision has compromised the principles of international law, let down victims of atrocities and confirmed that universal human rights are anything but global. Read on
A Belgian paradox on the Nile
July 2003 – Belgians appear to be more determined than most not to let a conflict get in the way of their holiday plans. While concern over instability in the Middle East has kept others away, recent months have seen a rise in the number of Belgians visiting the land of the Pharaohs. Read on
The threat of depleted geraniums
June 2003 – American and British forces have so far failed to find any WMD in Iraq, but Khaled Diab has stumbled across a nightmare cache of biological weapons right on his Brussels’ doorstep. The intrepid journalist risks life and limb to report on how stopping to smell the flowers can be a dangerous affair. Read on
Somewhere over the rainbow
May 2003 – Belgium’s ‘rainbow’ coalition is coming to the end of its four-year term in office. As the country prepares to go to the polls to choose a new government, question marks surround what lies at the end of the rainbow for Belgium’s Muslim community. Read on
Breaking the culture barrier
May 2003 – A new commercial Franco-Arab radio station in Brussels hopes to promote inter-community harmony through music. Contact Inter aims to break down the culture barrier with a mix of the latest sounds from North Africa, the Middle East, Europe and beyond. Read on
Get off my cloud!
April 2003 – Residents of Brussels and the surrounding area are again protesting at the rerouting of flight paths in the capitals skies. Read on
Joy and fury at Belgium’s revised genocide law
February 2003 – As a global army of millions of peace protesters attempts to stop the march towards a US-led war in Iraq, Belgium’s legal system has put heads of state and political leaders on notice that they run the risk of being held personally accountable for their actions once they leave office. Read on
February 2003 – Does the media paint an accurate picture of ethnic minorities? A new initiative aims to provide a broader view. Read on
Sleepless in Grimbergen
January 2003 – Since flightpaths were altered to and from Brussels in November, fewer people are affected by the nocturnal rumble of aircraft. But they are a furious “few”. Read on
Words without frontiers
January 2003 – Many parents are calling for immersion language learning to be made widespread in Belgium but a debate over pedagogy and politics stands in the way. Read on
Belgium gets smart about identity
December 2002 – The Belgian government hopes that, within five years, every citizen will be carrying a new electronic identity card. But will the new ‘smart’ IDs prove to be the Citizen’s friend or Big Brother’s little helper? Read on
Murder prompts riots
December 2002 – Antwerp Arab leader arrested after unrest following “racist” killing. Read on
Arab pride on the streets of Antwerp
November 2002 – An Arab community group has organised patrols on Antwerp streets to counter what it calls a ‘manhunt’ by police of Moroccan youths. Found out about what has been criticised as a ‘private militia’. Read on
Arab panthers and Flemish lions
November 2002 – A new wave of Arab activism is taking hold in Antwerp. Khaled Diab meets its leader. Read on
Battle for the Arab airwaves
October 2002 – a new commercial radio station has stoked a war of words… in Arabic. Read on
Leaps of faith
July 2002 – My arm hung sheepishly in mid-air and my confident smile faltered momentarily when Rita Walravens politely declined to shake my hand. Despite the fleeting sense of awkwardness and my hasty withdrawal of the offending limb, I comforted myself that I had not irreparably put my foot in it and that she bore me no ill feelings. Read on and readers’ reactions
Peace activists to join forces
June 2002 – Israeli and Palestinian civil society should not count on their deadlocked politicians to deliver peace and must join forces to mobilise grassroots support for a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict in the Middle East, peace activists from both sides agreed at a meeting in Brussels this week. Read on
Walking like an Egyptian
May 2002 – The Bangles, a long forgotten 1980s girl band, will always be remembered by an Egyptian teenager who suffered untold playground trauma provoked by their unfounded hit theory on how to identify his fellow countrymen through a peculiar national trait. Read on
Palestinian militant’s whereabouts a secret
May 2002 – The whereabouts of an exiled Palestinian, Khalil Mohammed Abdullah Nawareh, who arrived in Belgium last week remain shrouded in secrecy owing to government concerns for his safety and public order. Read on
At death’s door
April 2002 – An appointment with Belgium’s only Islamic undertaker. Read on
Reinventing the Arab media
March 2002 – Few would have expected tiny Qatar, a sleepy gulf state once known for little more than its oil and its ancient tradition of trading, to be at the forefront of what has been dubbed as nothing less than an Arab media revolution by many and dismissed as nothing more than a sophisticated propaganda tool by others. Read on
Tales of the Alhambra
March 2002 – A group of young Muslims take the director’s chair to make a series of films about how perceptions of their religion have been affected by 11 September. Read on
February 2002 – As Muslims the world over head for Mecca, Khaled Diab looks at festivities closer to home. Read on
Resolving meaty issues
February 2002 – Animal rights activists have welcomed the setting up of temporary abattoirs during Eid to enforce Federal and EU legislation that bans the ritual slaughter of animals outside official slaughter houses, a practice they say poses public health risks and makes the animals suffer unnecessarily. Read on
Moor or less Belgians
January 2002 – The second and third generation of Moroccans in Belgium are gaining a renewed pride in their mixed heritage and are becoming more assertive in expressing their political and cultural will to be recognised as full and equal players in the country’s colourful social landscape. Khaled Diab talks to some young Moroccans. Read on
Looking for the Ramadan spirit
November 2001 – A long way from home in Cairo, Khaled Diab sets out to discover how Ramadan is observed on the streets of Brussels. Read on