France arrests and deports CAGE Managing Director Muhammad Rabbani

CAGE's Muhammad Rabbani at the conference

The Managing Director of CAGE, Muhammad Rabbani, was detained and deported  last week by the French government which accused him of spreading “conspiracies” about France’s mistreatment of Muslims.

Rabbani arrived in Paris on July 11 for a three day trip to meet with French media organisations and civil society leaders.

But he was detained at a police station shortly after his arrival and then transferred to a migrant detention centre. He was kept in custody for almost 24 hours and denied access to his electronic devices for the majority of that time.

During his detention, Rabbani was questioned by police at the airport, then at the migrant detention centre and finally at the airport before he returned to the UK.

He was also questioned by an official from France’s Ministry of Interior. Upon his arrival in the UK, he was held at Gatwick Airport for a further hour.

The Ministry of the Interior accused Rabbani of issuing “slanderous” and “conspiratorial” statements denouncing state Islamophohic persecution in France and mass state surveillance.

They accused him of contributing to a “victim discourse” which aimed to convince French Muslims that they are suffering state harassment. This could provoke hatred and violence toward institutions and their officials, the Interior Ministry said.

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The ban against Rabbani followed a highly critical speech given by Rabbani at an OSCE conference in 2022 in which he outlined the French government’s Islamophobic policies.

Muhammad Rabbani said: “France banned me in response to a speech I gave at last September’s OSCE conference – exposing its Systematic Obstruction Policy. CAGE has been monitoring the racist implementation of that policing strategy and the way it targets Muslim citizens.

“The French government is clearly threatened by an NGO holding them to account. Our interventions and critiques are echoed across the board. Singling out a Muslim human rights defender for a ban smacks of the very same Islamophobia of which they are so offended about being accused.”

In 2022 CAGE released a report which revealed the unprecedented crackdown on Islam and Muslims in France under the government of Emmanuel Macron.

The report said the crackdown on Islam and Muslims amounted to “persecution” under international law, as well as institutionalised Islamophobia and repression.

CAGE said the pattern of behaviour exhibited by the French state towards Muslims was calculated to harass and humiliate, resulting in the intentional and severe deprivation of freedom of religion, of opinion, of association and right to property.

In 2021 the French parliament approved a law to strengthen oversight of mosques, schools and sports clubs. The government said it was needed to safeguard France from “radical Islamists” and to promote respect for secularism and women’s rights. The law has been used to shut down multiple mosques and community groups.

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