Daily Mail reports:
A traditional nativity scene will not be put up in a Belgian town this year, amid claims it was scrapped in order to avoid offending Muslims.
A former leader in Holsbeek, about 20 miles outside Brussels – claims there will be no manger to mark the festival because it would be ‘too provocative’.
Achiel Claes, an ex-alderman in the town, rubbished any suggestion that Muslims would be offended.
But another politician has said it had nothing to do with Muslims, saying it is because of the separation between church and state.
Claes, a Christian Democrat, told De Morgen: ‘The reason was that it would be “too provocative for Muslims”.
‘There are maybe only four Muslims living in town and they would never complain that there is a nativity scene in city hall.’
He said he could ‘understand’ if a nativity scene was banned in Molenbeek – where the terrorists behind the Paris attacks last November lived – but branded the decision in Holsbeek as ‘nonsense’.
Belgian State Secretary of Asylum and Migration Theo Francken said: ‘Some people want to take away all our traditions, but I will resist that.’
It is claimed that the town secretary complained about the nativity scene.
But current alderman Annelies Vander Bracht said the decision had nothing to do with Muslims.
She said: ‘We did it because there needs to be a separation between church and state.
‘Each municipality can interpret that in its own way. To be as neutral as possible, we took away the nativity scene.’
And she continued: ‘Gays or victims of paedophile priests would not be too thrilled by a symbol of the church either.
‘Let’s keep it in the private sphere, I think that is the smartest way. At home I do have a nativity scene as it is nice for the kids.’
The decision not to put a nativity scene up was supported by the ruling coalition of the Christian-Democrats and the Green Party.
But the Flemish-nationalist N-VA party called for locals to attend the town’s next assembly meeting – and to each bring a nativity scene with them.