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>> Saudi Arabia is set to relinquish its control of Belgium's largest mosque. A sign the kingdom is trying to shed its reputation as a global exporter of an ultra-conservative brand of Islam. Belgium leased the Grand Mosque to Riyadh in the 60s, giving Saudi-backed imams access to a growing Muslim immigrant community in return for cheaper oil.
But it's now concerned that what the mosque preaches breeds radicalism. Reuters' Alissa de Carbonnel says it marks a real shift in Belgian politics.>> A Belgian parliamentary committee recommended this fall that Belgium take back control of this mosque from Saudi Arabia. That has sparked a flurry of diplomacy between the two countries.
Some diplomats worried that the move would disrupt important commercial and diplomatic relations. That hasn't happened.>> There's been mounting concern among European governments since Islamic attacks that were planned in Brussels killed 130 people in Paris in 2015, and 32 in the Belgium capital a year later. The mosque's leaders have always denied it supports violence.
>> Definitely, we don't teach any of this here, definitely.>> But they have admitted to problems over how the mosque is perceived. Now, Saudi's quick acceptance of the deal may indicate a readiness to promote a more moderate form of Islam.>> That move coincides with what Western officials tells us is a new initiative in Riyadh to cut funding for mosques and schools abroad.
If implemented, the handover of this mosque back to the Belgium state would be the first tangible signs of that initiative coming to the fore. And it would show that Saudi Arabia is serious about reforming its image as a promoter of radical ideas abroad.>> Details of the mosque's handover are still being negotiated, but will be announced this month.