“What will be next? Will all Easter eggs be banned in Brussels because they refer to Easter?” — Bianca Debaets, of Belgium’s Christian Democratic and Flemish Party
More than 25,000 people in Belgium have signed a petition denouncing a decision to remove the traditional Christmas tree in the central square in Brussels and replace it with a politically correct structure of abstract minimalist art.
Critics accuse the Socialist mayor, Freddy Thielemans, of declaring war on Christmas by installing the “multicultural” structure of lights to placate the city’s burgeoning Muslim population.
Historically, a 20 meter [65 foot] fir tree taken from the forests of the Ardennes has adorned the city’s main square, the Grand-Place. This year, however, it has been replaced with a 25 meter  foot new-age-like structure of lighted boxes (see video here). Moreover, the traditional Christmas Market in downtown Brussels is no longer being referred to as a “Christmas Market.” Instead, it has been renamed as “Winter Pleasures 2012.”
The mayor’s office, where more than half of the city’s eleven councilors are either Muslim or Socialist or both, said the structure was part of a theme this year of “light.” City Councilor Philippe Close, a Socialist, said the aim was to show off the “avant-garde character” of Brussels by blending the modern and the traditional to produce something new and different. He added: “The Christmas tree is not a religious symbol and actually lots of Muslims have a Christmas tree at home.”
But critics say the non-tree, which was inaugurated on November 30 and will be on display through January 6, was installed to avoid offending Muslims. They also point to a recent Fatwa [a legal pronouncement in Islam], which states that Muslims are prohibited from having anything to do with Christmas trees.
The Fatwa states: “It is not permissible to imitate the kuffar [a highly derogatory Arabic term used to refer to non-Muslims] in any of their acts of worship, rituals or symbols, because the Prophet [Mohammed] said: ‘Whoever imitates a people is one of them.’”
The Fatwa continues: “So it is not permissible to put up this tree in a Muslim house even if you do not celebrate Christmas, because putting up this tree comes under the heading of imitating others that is haram [banned], or venerating and showing respect to a religious symbol of the kuffar. What the parents must do is protect their children and keep them away from what is haram, and protect them from the Fire as Allah, may He be exalted.”
The Fatwa concludes: “You should explain to your daughter that it is haram to imitate the disbelievers and that it is obligatory to differ from those who are doomed to Hell and to dislike what they venerate of clothing, symbols or rituals, so as to develop respect for her own religion and adhere to it.”
Bianca Debaets, a Brussels councilor from the Christian Democratic and Flemish party, told the Flemish newspaper Brussel Nieuws that she believed an argument over Muslim religious sensitivities had prompted the Brussels City Council to put up the light sculpture.