Expatica news

Royals visit firm targeted by anti-Muslim fanatics

20 April 2005

BRUSSELS – The Belgian royal couple visited a Flemish business where a manager terrorised by death threats for allowing a female Muslim employee to wear a headscarf on Tuesday.

King Albert II and Queen Paola made the trip to the Remmery fingerfood factory in the Flemish town of Ledegem to show their support for Rik Vannieuwenhuyse and his employee ,Na?ma Amzil.

Vannieuwenhuyse has received several death threats in the form of letters from an unknown person or persons calling themselves Nieuw Vrij Vlaanderen apparently angry that Amzil is allowed to wear a headscarf while at work.

Both were invited by the King to the Royal Palace in Brussels in January after he heard about their predicament.

Albertt II promised at the time to come visit them at the factory, a promise he kept on Tuesday, as Belgian daily La Libre Belgique reported.

Amzil wore an ivory Moroccan robe and matching scarf for the big day. “It’s true that this really is special. This is a big day for me.It means that the King supports us,” she said.

The royal couple were presented with a collection of drawings by her five-year-old son, Ayub. Next they toured the Remmery factory, finishing at the packing department where Amzil works.

The young woman had changed back into her work clothes – except for her veil. During the course of a subsequent reception, Albert II made a point of talking to the rest of the the staff.

After about the third letter, some of which have contained bullets, Amiz seemed resigned to removing her headscarf, Vannieuwenhuyse recalled.

“She cried for hours before making this decision,” he said. “For us, it would not seem different because she wears a protective bonnet beneath the veil. But for her.”

Instead Amzil resigned in March and took some time off in her native Morocco. But she returned to her job at Remmery in April.

“I rested and stayed with my family near Casablance for a month,” she said. “Things are going very, very well since I returned to my work. I always have the support of my colleagues. All that I hope for is a normal life.”

As for finding those responsible for the letters, she says: “That is not essential. What counts is that the letters stop.”

A few thumbprints were found on some of the letters and all Remmery employees were subjected to digital fingerprinting in order to rule them out as suspects. Some were hurt and outraged that they may have been viewed as potential suspects in the case, said Vannieuwenhuyse.

“We have known a lot of misery within the enterprise: This has been a sad period for everyone,” he said.

So the royal visit was like a balm for everyone working at Remmery, he added.

“I am tired. Today I have hope that this really is the end of everything.”

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject : Belgian news