Regional authorities in northern France have closed down a mosque in Beauvais because of an imam’s alleged “speeches against Christians, Jews and homosexuals.”
The decision comes a month after the Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, announced that authorities were in process of closing down the mosque. The authorities allege that the imam pushed members towards radicalisation.
According to local authorities, the mosque will remain closed for six months.
Darmanin alleged that the imam was presented as an “occasional speaker” but in reality acted as a regular prayer leader and would defend jihad and Muslim fighters, who he described as heroes.
He also alleged that the imam would regularly target Christians, Jews and homosexuals in his sermons and that was unacceptable.
An official in Oise, the area which includes Beauvais, said that a letter was sent last week informing about the closure of the mosque.
According to a local newspaper, Courrier Picard, the imam was a recent convert to Islam.
A lawyer for the Hope and Fraternity organisation that runs the mosque, Samim Bolaky, said that the imam had been suspended following the letter by the authorities.
Courrier Picard quoted the lawyer saying that the remarks of the imam in the sermons have been taken out of context and said that he had appealed against the decision. He also stressed that Hope and Fraternity had always fought terrorism and promoted communal harmony.
According to Interior Ministry data, 99 mosques and Muslim prayer halls have been investigated in recent months. Some of them were accused of spreading “separatist ideology.” Around 22 have already been closed for various reasons and more are being investigated.
The crackdown came after the October 2020 murder of teacher Samuel Paty who was targeted following an online campaign against him for having shown blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Anadolu Agency quoted the Interior minister saying that as a result of the inspections carried out in 89 mosques since November 2020 over radicalisation allegations, one-third of them have been closed, adding they are taking action to close six more mosques in Sarthe, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Cote-d’Or, Rhone, and Gard regions.
Darmanin added that they opposed the construction of a mosque called “Eyup Sultan” in Strasbourg, which is affiliated with the Islamic Community National View (IGMG), despite the approval from local authorities.
In July, the National Assembly of France passed an “anti-separatism.” Later in August, the bill was approved by the highest constitutional authority.
The law has been criticised for restricting religious freedom and singling out Muslims. The government has defended itself stating that it is intended to strengthen France’s secular system.