Government officials in Brussels, Belgium banned Wednesday a popular Christmas tree exhibit out of concerns that the local Muslim population found it “offensive.”
An “electronic winter tree,” will take the place of the traditional Christmas Tree and Nativity scene at the city center of Grand Place, reports Brussels News.
The electronic sculpture will stand 25 meters (82 feet) tall and consists of a set of television screens, reports Brussels Expat. “During the daytime you can climb to the top of the tree where you will be able to enjoy a panoramic view of the city,” the website explains. “As soon as it becomes dark the tree turns into a spectacle of light and sound. Every ten minutes an amazing show will unfold.”
City councilwoman Bianca Debaets believes a “misplaced argument” over religious sensitivities has moved Brussels to put up the light sculpture. She points to the fact that it display not be referred to “Christmas” in any way to make her point.
“I suspect that the reference to the Christian religion was the decisive factor” in replacing the tree, she told reporters. “For a lot of people who are not Christians, the tree there is offensive to them.”
Many cities in Belgium have thriving Muslim populations. A 2008 study showed Muslims make up 25.5-percent of the population of Brussels, 3.9-percent of Flanders, and 4.0-percent of Wallonia.
Two Muslims elected to the Brussels city council last month have vowed to turn Belgium into a Muslim state based on Sharia law, as previously reported.
“Must a historic city like Brussels be sensitive to traditions? And should be a multi-religious city like Brussels not leave room for the individuality of every philosophy?,” Debaets asks.
Other city officials insists the move was not made to placate Muslims or other groups. Nicolas Dassonville, spokesman for Mayor Thielemans (PS), said the Nativity scene will remain at Grand Place
The tree’s sponsor, electricity generator Electrabel, made the move to put up the electronic sculpture this year, Dassonville said.