France closes mosque north of Paris after ‘unacceptable’ preaching

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin gestures as he speaks during a media conference at the Élysée Palace in Paris on December 9, 2020, as a draft law aimed at arming France against Islamist radicalism was unveiled at the weekly Cabinet meeting.

France has ordered the closure of a mosque in the north of the country because of the radical nature of its imam’s preaching, regional authorities told AFP on Tuesday.

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The mosque in Beauvais, a town of 50,000 people some 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Paris, will remain shut for six months, according to the prefecture of the Oise region where Beauvais is located.

It said the sermons there incite hatred, violence and “defend jihad”.

The move comes two weeks after Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he had triggered the procedure to close the site because the imam there “is targeting Christians, homosexuals and Jews” in his sermons. This, the minister said, was “unacceptable”.

Local authorities were legally bound to launch a 10-day period of information-gathering before taking action, but told AFP on Tuesday that the mosque would now be shut within two days.

Local daily Courrier Picard reported this month that the mosque’s imam was a recent convert to Islam.

A lawyer for the association managing the mosque told AFP that it had filed for an injunction to overturn the ban.

The lawyer, Samim Bolaky, said there would be a court hearing on the appeal within 48 hours.

The authorities said the imam, who the association claims had preached only occasionally and had now been suspended, was in fact a regular presence at the mosque, according to the official document citing the reasons for the closure seen by AFP.

It said the imam had called the jihad, a term for war against the enemies of Islam, a “duty”, and had glorified its fighters as “heroes” who protected Islam against Western influence.

He had also labelled non-Muslims as “enemies”, it said.

“The terrorist threat remains at a very high level” and the closure had “the aim of forestalling acts of terrorism being committed”, the document said.

The French government announced earlier this year that it would step up checks of places of worship and associations suspected of spreading radical Islamic propaganda.

The crackdown came after the October 2020 murder of teacher Samuel Paty who was targeted following an online campaign against him for having shown controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a civics class.

The interior ministry said this month that around 100 mosques and Muslim prayer halls out of France’s total number of more than 2,600 have been investigated over recent months because of suspicion that they were spreading “separatist” ideology.

Six sites were being probed with a view to closing them down on the basis of French laws against extremism and Islamist separatism, it said.


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