A French Muslim father who had his five children taken away after he was apparently mistakenly suspected of leaving for Syria to fight jihad has been arrested.
Meher Msakni was picked up at his house in Bourgoin Jallieu near Lyon on Tuesday after he told 5Pillars editor Roshan Muhammed Salih that he had been in Tunisia but had immediately returned home to France upon hearing the news of his five children.
Msakni said that his wife was told by the authorities that he was suspected of “radicalism” and of having the intention of going to fight jihad in Syria. His wife added that she suspected that the authorities were using the children as hostages so that her husband would return home.
But Msakni said he never had any such intention and was instead in Tunisia (his country of origin) preparing to move his family there because they could “no longer practise Islam in France.”
He added that despite repeated requests to see his children, he had been denied permission to do so and is still unaware of where they are being kept. The children are aged 6, 5, 4, 18 months and 3 months.
On Wednesday, the Coalition against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI) organised a demonstration in front of the local Town Hall to protest against the continued detention of the children. According to CRI, 150 people attended the demonstration and demanded that the children be returned to their mother otherwise they would “escalate their actions.”
Meanwhile, after reporting nothing for two days the French media is now quoting official sources as saying that Msakni is suspected of violence against the children of his second wife in an environment of “Islamic radicalisation.”
“We are protecting the children against religious practises which could harm their moral and physical security,” Judge Cedric Cabut said.
The judicial measures followed a complaint lodged against the father “for acts of abuse and corporal punishment related to the practice of religion against two of his stepchildren.”
The local authorities have also refuted any accusations of Islamophobia and say that the protection of the children is uppermost in their minds.
The Charlie Hebdo and other attacks in January killed 17 people in Paris. Since then many observers feel that France has been in a state of hysteria with Muslims being targeted on a regular basis.
The French media, especially, tends to focus on “radicalism” and “extremism” within the Muslim community and hardly touches on issues such as Islamophobia, racism and foreign policy.