by Emanuele Mastrangelo

"The last time they had tried to silence me with the police was when in 1988 the communists sent their guards against me." The statement on X by Viktor Orban is a harsh indictment of the unprecedented action of disruption, bullying and intimidation carried out by the mayor of Saint-Josse-ten-Noode in the metropolitan city of Brussels against the National Conservatism Conference (NatConTalk) scheduled for April 16 and 17 in the Belgian capital.

A very serious provocation of true institutional squadrism, to which the organizers responded by taking legal action and obtaining a favorable ruling in record time: on the morning of the 17th, in fact, Belgium's Council of State ruled that NatConTalk cannot be prevented because "Article 26 of the Constitution guarantees everyone the right to assemble."

The disruptive action by the first citizen of Saint-Josse, Emir Kir (an Islamist of Turkish origin), had begun several days ago, with the cancellation of the authorization to use the first two venues of the National Conservatism Conference, even sending in the police. Throughout the days of April 16 and 17, a cordon of guards prevented speakers, spectators, even MEPs from entering the venue, the Claridge Hotel, according to several Italians present at the conference, such as Francesco Giubilei of Nazione Futura and Lorenzo Bernasconi of the Centro Studi Machiavelli. "Is Belgium still a democracy? - protested Francesco Giubilei, president of the think tank Future Nation, and among the organizers of the conference, yesterday afternoon, at the height of the blockade ordered by Kir - Not only is it forbidden to enter the event venue but even the mayor called in the guards. Now the event venue is surrounded by police who are no longer letting anyone in, not even Eric Zemmour who was supposed to speak at 4 p.m."

The excuse put forward by Kir to prevent the regular holding of the conference was of a "threat to public order," but it was rejected by the Belgian Council of State. Rather, it overturned the interpretation, identifying the opponents of NatConTalk (the extremists from the social centers and Antifa organizations who had intimidatingly prevented the holding at the first two venues) as the real source of possible unrest. In fact, from the information that several social media outlets spread, even left-wing extremists allegedly threatened the venue's food service workers and their families in case they provided catering at NatConTalk.

The attempted censorship of the conference drew an indignant reaction and intervention from Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who interfaced with her Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo and obtained a firm condemnation of the actions of the mayor of Saint-Josse. "What is happening in Brussels leaves us incredulous and dismayed. The mayor of one of the municipalities in the Belgian capital has banned a conference, which should be attended by heads of government, national and European parliamentarians. Following the order, police physically prevented guests and speakers from being able to access the conference," Meloni said according to AskaNews. "I immediately asked Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo to follow up on what was happening and I thank him for his timely and clear stance against the hateful oppression of freedom of expression taking place in Brussels. To all the victims of this unjustifiable abuse, especially the ECR members present, goes my total solidarity." Immediately De Croo took action, later declaring on X his strong condemnation of Kir's action, "What happened today at Claridge is unacceptable. Municipal autonomy is a cornerstone of our democracy, but it can never override the Belgian Constitution, which has guaranteed freedom of speech and peaceful assembly since 1830. Banning political meetings is unconstitutional, full stop."

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Prominent members of the European conservative and national front, including Viktor Orban, former Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, MEPs from Fratelli d'Italia Nicola Procaccini and Lega Marco Campomenosi, and intellectuals such as Frenchman Eric Zemmour and Israeli Yoram Hazony, then spoke at the conference.

Mayor Emir (Erdal) Kir is a controversial figure in Belgian politics. Born in 1960 from immigrant parents from Turkey, he was a member of the Belgian Socialist Party from 1995 to 2020. An early scandal concerning his career was that he boasted a degree in political science that he never earned. Despite this, he served as alderman for Social Affairs and Public Education from 2000 to 2004, secretary of state for the Brussels Capital Region in 2004 before becoming mayor of Saint-Josse in 2012. He has been a federal deputy since 2014. In 2006 he was sharply criticized for his questionable handling of the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice-which involves the slaughter of live sheep. In 2012 he became the first mayor of Turkish origin in the French-speaking part of Belgium, confirmed in 2018 amid allegations of fraud, favor trading and vote buying. Despite his affiliation with the Socialist Party, Kir has been the protagonist of actions that have cost him harsh criticism. In 2013 he had some 200 homeless people expelled in a violent police operation from an occupied former convent. In 2015 he refused to attend the commemoration of the Armenian genocide, the culmination of a series of acts of hostility toward Armenians and Kurds with which he had punctuated his career. In 2019 he had compared Belgium to the Third Reich for its controls on clandestine mosques in an anti-terrorist capacity. In 2020, after receiving a number of Turkish mayors-including two elected by the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (the political arm of the Gray Wolves)-he was expelled from the Socialist Party, which had previously banned its members from having official relations with right-wing movements.

"When you import a person, you are also importing their culture. And the vast majority of cultures outside of Europe do not know what democracy is and believe that the only way to deal with minorities is with the machete or the dhimma," said Centro Studi Machiavelli President Daniele Scalea. The only common thread of Kir's action, in fact, seems to be that of Turkish-Islamic pro-immigrationism, supported with perfect ideological-political incoherence from time to time with extreme right-wing acts (such as the welcome given to Turkish PMN mayors, the displacement of the homeless and the denialism of the Armenian genocide) or the extreme left, as, in this latest episode, by siding elbow to elbow with the radicalism of the extra-parliamentarians, even going so far as to mobilize the police to prevent a peaceful conference. Who, however, is evidently wrong to talk about such unwelcome topics as curbing immigration and the Islamization of Europe.

[updated April 18, 2024. This piece was originally published on CulturaIdentità]

Redattore del blog del Centro Studi Machiavelli "Belfablog", Emanuele Mastrangelo è stato redattore capo di "Storia in Rete" dal 2006. Cartografo storico-militare, è autore di vari libri (con Enrico Petrucci, Iconoclastia. La pazzia contagiosa dellacancel cultureche sta distruggendo la nostra storia and Wikipedia. L'enciclopedia libera e l'egemonia dell'informazione).