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France orders mosque to close after ‘unacceptable’ preaching

The National logo The National 14/12/2021 Simon Rushton
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he had said begun the process of shutting the mosque, in Beauvais. AFP © SAMEER AL-DOUMY French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he had said begun the process of shutting the mosque, in Beauvais. AFP

France has begun procedures to close down a mosque at which a preacher has been accused of delivering “unacceptable” sermons.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he had triggered the process of shutting the mosque in Beauvais, a town of 50,000 people about 100 kilometres north of Paris.

As France faces a presidential election next year, right-wing politicians raised rhetoric that criticised immigrant communities and put pledges to reduce immigration at the top of their campaign agenda.

Authorities in Oise, the region that includes Beauvais, had previously considered closing the mosque because of sermons they said incited hatred and violence.

A letter was sent last week announcing the closure plan, adding that a 10-day period of information-gathering was legally required before any action could be taken, a regional official said.

A local daily newspaper, Courrier picard, reported that the mosque’s imam was a recent convert to Islam.

The paper quoted a lawyer for the association managing the mosque as saying his remarks had been “taken out of context”, and that the imam had been suspended since the prefecture’s letter was sent.

Mr Darmanin announced earlier this year that France would step up checks against associations and places of worship suspected of spreading extremist propaganda.

The crackdown came after the October 2020 murder of teacher Samuel Paty.

Paty had become the subject of an online campaign of hate after he had used the controversial Charlie Hebdo magazine during a civics class.

According to the interior ministry, 99 mosques and Muslim prayer halls of France’s total of 2,623 have been investigated in recent months because they were suspected of spreading “separatist” ideology.

Of the total, 21 were currently shut, for various reasons, and six were being investigated with a view to closing them down on the basis of French laws against extremism and religious social separatism.

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