‘Every mosque in France should be worried about its future’

Gennevilliers Mosque

The president of a French mosque which was threatened with closure by the authorities has warned that every French mosque should be worried about its future.

Mohamed Benali, of Gennevilliers Mosque near Paris, was speaking after the Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, threatened the mosque with closure unless it sacked an imam who gave a sermon there on June 4 which was considered to be contrary to “Republican values.”

The imam, Mohamed el Mehdi Bouzid, is alleged to have said that women lacked modesty, and some of them were being “inhabited by the demon” and “share makeup lessons or outfits on social networks that showcase the shapes of their bodies.”

This sermon led to the imam being summoned to the Hauts-de-Seine authorities on July 8, “as part of the fight against separatism and radicalisation.”

Commenting on the developments, Mohamed Benali said: “I’m really sorry that the public authorities have behaved in this way but I have no choice but to suffer this unjust pressure on all the community… The separatism law which is being voted on seems to target Islam in France in its entirety. If Gennevilliers Mosque is threatened with closure every mosque should be worried.”

Gerald Darmanin

Mr Benali said Imam Mehdi was not an employee of the mosque and has left the country for Tunisia. He added that he has made a complaint against Mr Darmanin for abuse of power.

Benali concluded by saying that Gennevilliers Mosque has a reputation for tolerance and interfaith dialogue, as well as integration into French society and respect for Republican values and secularism.

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“A priest told me that if they close the Gennevilliers Mosque for these remarks they should close 70 percent of churches because even priests preach about modesty,” he said.

The news comes a few weeks after the imam of another mosque in France was sacked at the behest of Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin after he recited a verse from the Quran and a hadith which were deemed “derogatory to women.”

Mmadi Ahamada, the imam of the Great Mosque of Saint-Chamond, will also now face being deported as authorities are working on not renewing his French residency permit.

Quoting from Surah al Ahzab and a hadith addressing the wives of the Prophet (pbuh), Ahamada told a congregation at Eid prayers last month: “Stay in your homes and do not show off like women before Islam… obey your husbands” and “Do not be too complacent in your language with the one whose heart is sick, that is to say the hypocrite.”

Five months ago a global coalition of 25 civil society organisations and NGOs from 11 countries submitted a letter to the President of the European Commission urging immediate action against France for its “state-sponsored Islamophobia.”

The complaint says that France has implemented numerous laws designed to limit freedom of belief and punish the manifestation of religion.

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