France likely to close more than 150 mosques

PARIS (TIP): Leading Imam Hassan El Alaoui says “The whole issue is not about Muslims, but about terrorists. It’s an issue of security for everyone.”

France is likely to close up to 160 mosques in the coming months as part of a nationwide police operation under the state of emergency which allows places of worship that promote radical views to be shut down, one of the country’s chief imams has said.

In another news, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told journalists on Wednesday, December 2, that three mosques had been closed over the past two weeks during the state of emergency – marking the first time France had taken such action against places of worship. On Wednesday, police shut down a suspected radical mosque east of Paris and arrested the owner of a revolver found in related raids as part of the crackdown, Cazeneuve said. Security officers also found “jihadist” documents in the raids at the mosque and related premises in Lagny-sur-Marne.

The assets of Imam Mohamed Hammoumi, who ran the mosque and the cultural associations until he left to live in Egypt in 2014, were frozen in April, AFP reported. The other two mosques closed last week were in Gennevilliers, northwest of Paris, and in the southeastern city of Lyon, Cazeneuve added. France has so far raided 2,235 homes and buildings, taken 232 people into custody and confiscated 334 weapons, 34 of them war grade, the interior minister said.

Following this, Hassan El Alaoui, who is in charge of nominating regional and local Muslim imams and mediating between the imams and prison officials, told Al Jazeera that more were set to be shut. “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 classified as Muslims who accuse others of the same faith of apostasy, an act which has become a sectarian slur. “This kind of speech shouldn’t even be allowed in Islamic countries, let alone secure countries like France,” El Alaoui, who became the first Muslim prison chaplain-general in 2005, said.

The recent mosque closures, he added, 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 suicide bomb and gun 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.”



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