This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium
When 29-year old Julie walks into the De Beurs pub in Ninove, a city in northern Belgium, she warmly greets the regulars as she makes her way over to the bar. Hanging above her head is a large flag of Forza Ninove – the local chapter of far-right nationalist party Vlaams Belang, which recently won the city's local elections. The party is led by Flemish nationalist Guy D'haeseleer, who might soon become the first mayor in Belgium history from the far-right party.
If that happens, he'll definitely be celebrating in his local, De Beurs, which is run by Julie's mother, Stania Van Loo (52) – a city councillor for Forza Ninove. The pub is a popular spot with the party's supporters. After Forza's recent electoral success, a photo of several party members celebrating their victory by seemingly performing Nazi salutes spread across social media. The location of that victory party? The terrace outside of De Beurs.
Despite her mother's far-right beliefs, Julie is a staunch supporter of the liberal Green party. As she pours herself a drink, she explains how the regulars here all think of her as some left-wing hippie. But no teasing from her mum's Forza friends could change Julie's convictions. I came here to meet Julie and Stania to find out what it's like for a mother and daughter to hold such opposing views, whether Julie thinks her mum's opinions are racist and what it would take for them to disown each other.
VICE: Hi Stania, you guys won the local elections. Are you happy with the results?
Stania: I'm very happy. When I ran for the first time six years ago, I only got 700 votes, but this time I won around 1,000 more.
How important are your political beliefs to you?
Stania: They make me feel good. I actually come from a family of socialists – we're working people. Then through the years I just became more and more right-wing. Six years ago, my car was stolen while I was out shopping in Brussels. The police eventually found a Moroccan guy driving it. And eight years ago, the alarm in the pub woke me up, but thankfully the police eventually caught the two burglars. I no longer feel safe, so I've started walking around with pepper spray. I'm not a racist, but I hear a lot of stories. My friend's daughter just recently got mugged. I respect all kinds of people – we welcome foreigners in the pub, too. I just don't like Muslims or Islam. They can't just force a mosque on us; it's not our culture. This isn't a Muslim country.
Julie: Oh come on – you respect everyone? That's so not true. You only listen to the bad stories, while I can give you hundreds of positive examples. I voted Green.
Stania: I don't understand how you can even think of voting Green. You're still young – that's why you voted Green – but there's a big chance you'll come around. I've travelled to Jamaica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and took school supplies to hand out to the local people.
Julie: That doesn't make you Mother Theresa. It's about the people who came here to flee their country – you have such a severe lack of empathy for them. My mum was a single parent, and I think she's pretty tough for raising me on her own. And I admire her for beating cancer. But other people have problems, too. Nobody who decides to risk their life on those little boats is doing it for fun. They are just trying to survive.
Stania: I'm sure the good ones stay in their own country and the bad ones come to ours. Where do they get the money from to come here if they don't have anything back home? They even have expensive phones, while it's our people being harassed.
Julie: I live in Ghent, in a neighbourhood that has a mix of lots of different cultures. Whenever I have to unload my car, someone offers to help me. I'd even feel safe leaving my front door wide open.
Stania: And what about the time your iPhone got stolen? You think that was OK?
Julie: That happened once – but one stolen phone doesn't incriminate an entire population.
Stania: In our family, two out of three phones have been stolen. Both times were by a foreigner.
Would you consider quitting politics if Julie asked you to?
Stania: I know she'd never demand that of me.
Julie: No, I wouldn't demand it – that would be a bit extreme. But if I had a choice, I'd rather you worked for a different political party.
Stania, what do your friends think about the fact you can't get your daughter onboard with your political beliefs?
Stania: They all know Julie and they would never attack her personally. I'm incredibly proud of my daughter – she's in my profile picture on Facebook.
Are your friends mainly right or left-wing?
Stania: I don't have any left-wing friends.
Julie: There aren't any far-righters in my friendship group. I can't be friends with anyone who discriminates against others. I only make an exception for my mum because she's my mum. The people here in Ninove are connected because they are against something. I'd rather be a part of a positive group.
Stania: Julie doesn't know the difference between the right and the far-right. Voting for a right-wing party doesn't make me a bad person. If there's a hungry child on my doorstep tomorrow, I would feed them.
Would you describe yourself as far-right, Stania?
Stania: I'm not extremely right-wing. Filip Dewinter [the face of the Flemish far-right for years] is not my friend.
Julie: Mum's pretty much on the extreme right.
Stania: You can't say that about your own mother. I get along with mulattos and negroes too.
Julie: You can't say negroes – it's "black". I need to invite you along to spend some time with a Muslim family.
Stania: Julie, come on!
Would Julie be allowed to bring home a black boyfriend?
Stania: If he's a Muslim, then over my dead body.
Julie: Unfortunately, I haven't fallen in love with a Muslim man yet.
Stania: We're no longer allowed to organise a Christmas market in Brussels, or at least call it that. Muslims are not tolerant towards us; they should keep their hands off of Christmas.
What do your friends think of your right-wing upbringing, Julie?
Stania: I've never received a weird look from your friends.
Julie: I have struggled with it. This week, people were giving me the Nazi salute because they know I'm from Ninove. Sometimes I make fun of it myself on Instagram – in the picture that surfaced on social media, the people doing the Nazi salute are pointing exactly at my childhood bedroom. But I also feel like only I can joke about it – others need to shut up, because they don't know my mum like I do. In some way, I'm proud she stands up for herself. I got that from her – we're both not afraid to speak up. But thankfully, I inherited your character and not your ideology.
Stania: You see, Julie isn't 100 percent against me.
Would you have voted for your mum if you lived in Ninove?
Julie: There's not a bone in my body that would've voted for her, even if that meant her disowning me. Her party goes against everything I believe in.
The whole of Flanders now considers Forza Ninove to be a group of racists and neo-Nazis. Do you feel the need to defend your mother?
Julie: I know my mum's heart is in the right place. I realise I'm in a weird situation, but she's still my mum. If anyone attacked me, she'd have my back. That's why I'm a bit nervous about this interview. I don't want people to judge her. I'm scared of how people will react
Stania, do you hope Forza Ninove will get the chance to govern and prove it's a capable political party?
Stania: Yes, and if we get the chance and fail, they'll punish us in six years at the next elections.
Julie: I hope they never get power. That would be really horrible. I definitely wouldn't come to Ninove as often anymore.
Stania: You really wouldn't come here as often? See, I find it very hurtful when you say things like that.
Julie: I'd get you to come to Ghent more often.
How has all this affected your personal relationship?
Stania: I'm sad she doesn't back my political ambitions. But she did call me after the elections to congratulate me.
Julie: I could set my political views aside for a second for that.
Stania: I'd never ask her to campaign for me.
Julie: I campaigned for Green last elections, when my mum first ran with Forza Ninove. I drove around in a car with a huge Green poster on it. A car my mum gave me, by the way.
Stania: That was such a childish move. Saying that, I'd rather have her driving around with a Green sticker than have her arrested for doing drugs.
Do you think your relationship would be stronger if you agreed politically?
Stania: It wouldn't make me love her any more. She is who she is, and she has helped me through the hard times. She can get me through anything.
Julie: That's what mothers and daughters do, they help each other out.