France is looking to close up to 160 mosques as part of a nationwide police operation under the state of emergency, which was declared after last month’s deadly attacks in Paris.
Following the news of three mosques that have already been closed since the Paris attacks, Hassan El Alaoui, who is in charge of nominating regional and local imams, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that more were set to be shut down.
“According to official figures and our discussions with the interior ministry, between 100 and 160 more mosques will be closed because they are run illegally without proper licenses, they preach hatred, or use takfiri speech,” he said.
“Takfiris” are Muslims who ex-communicate their co-religionists for committing major sins.
“This kind of speech shouldn’t even be allowed in Islamic countries, let alone secure countries like France,” El Alaou added.
The recent mosque closures, he said, were made under “a legal act that the authorities have” and must have happened because “of some illegal things that they found”.
The imam also rejected those suspected of carrying out the terrorist attacks, which left 130 people dead, as “terrorists”.
“Those terrorists are a bunch of thieves and drug dealers that wore religious clothing,” he said. “The whole issue is not about Muslims, but about terrorists. It’s an issue of security for everyone.”
There are a total of 2,600 mosques in France.
France’s extended emergency rule has seen a surge in arrests, house arrests and raids on homes and private property in the aftermath of the Paris attacks – including at mosques and Muslim-owned businesses – and has raised alarm among human rights organisations that the law could curb civil liberties.
Meanwhile, there are fears that France’s Muslim minority, the largest in Europe, is facing increased persecution and Islamophobia.