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Legal fight starts for Belgian kashrut

Jewish community set to challenge decision in Wallonia in court, with a Flemish lawsuit to follow

    A strictly Orthodox slaughterer checks his knife
    A strictly Orthodox slaughterer checks his knife Flash90

    A ban on shechita in Belgium is being legally challenged by the country’s Jewish community.

    Earlier this year the parliaments of the country’s two main regions, Wallonia and Flanders, passed laws to outlaw religious slaughter, covering both kosher and halal meat.

    Wallonia unanimously voted to do so in May while Flanders, home to half of the country’s Jewish community and the majority of kosher facilities, followed suit in July.

    The lawsuit by the Belgian Federation of Jewish Organizations, known by its French initials CCOJB, submitted the lawsuit against the Walloon decision yesterday. It is being supported by The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and civil rights litigation fund which aims to stand up to antisemitic discrimination around the world.

    A similar lawsuit may be filed against the Flanders legislation in early 2018.

    It the latest attempt to challenge ritual slaughter, which has been restricted in several European countries.

    Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project
    Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project

    Denmark abolished an exemption that allowed religious groups to circumvent restrictions on the slaughter of any animal that was not previously stunned, creating a total ban in the country.

    Yohan Benizri, president of the CCOJB, said: “A ban on kosher meat production sends a message to Belgian Jews that they can choose between living in Belgium and practicing their religion, but they cannot do both. It sends a clear message to Belgium’s Jewish and Muslim communities that they are not welcome here.

    “This is a violation of the rule of law and of the freedom of religion of Article 10 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and we will challenge it as such, in Wallonia and in Flanders.”

    Further stressing this position, Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said:

    “This legislation is an attack on religious freedom in Belgium and must be challenged. Belgium’s Jews are a longstanding and integrated community. It is shameful to attack their ability to live a Jewish life as proud Belgian citizens.

    “Belgium has become famous for exporting jihadist terror around Europe, but I don’t think that problem can be solved by forcing Jews and Muslims to import religiously suitable meat.”

    Richard Verber from Britain’s Board of Deputies supported the legal challenge, saying: “We have previously raised this issue with the Belgian Ambassador to the UK with unsatisfactory results and completely understand that the community has been left with no other option but to pursue all legal avenues open to it.”

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