The French government has threatened to close dozens of mosques that have been flagged as potential security threats. The measures are part of an aggressive campaign to weed out Islamic extremism in the country.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Thursday that authorities were targeting 76 mosques suspected of promoting “separatism.”
In an interview with RTL radio, he claimed that in “some concentrated areas” of the country, mosques are “clearly anti-Republican.” He said France’s intelligence services have “followed” imams who preach ideas “counter to our values.” Darmanin stressed, however, that the institutions that have been identified as potential risks are just a fraction of the more than 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France.
“In the coming days, checks will be carried out on these places of worship. If ever these doubts are confirmed, I will ask for their closure,” he wrote in a tweet commenting on the interview.
76 mosquées sont aujourd’hui soupçonnées de séparatisme.Dans les prochains jours, des contrôles vont être menés sur ces lieux de culte.Si jamais ces doutes sont confirmés, je demanderai leur fermeture. pic.twitter.com/Mq8DGnB2Pr
He also announced that 66 illegal migrants suspected of “radicalization” had been deported.
The crackdown is part of a “massive and unprecedented” set of government measures designed to curtail religious “extremism” in the country, Darmanin said.
The government initiative follows a string of recent Islamist attacks in France, beginning with the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty in October. Paty was targeted by a radicalized Chechen refugee after showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson on free speech. Nearly two weeks later, three people were killed in a knife attack in Nice. The suspect is a Tunisian migrant who was reportedly radicalized.
A mosque accused of inciting the hate that led to Paty’s murder was shuttered at the end of October.
In response to Paty’s killing and subsequent incidents attributed to religious extremism, the French government plans to roll out a wide-ranging law aimed at stopping separatism. Under legislation submitted by President Emmanuel Macron, each child in France would be given an identification number that would be used to ensure that they are attending school. Parents who keep their children at home could face fines and even jail time. However, the measures would apply to all children, not just those from Muslim households.
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The proposed law will be reviewed by the country’s cabinet next week.
Macron has already taken steps to rein in extremism. At his urging, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has agreed to create an organization that will issue accreditation to imams. The accreditation can be withdrawn if religious leaders espouse extremist views.
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