Politics

Radical Imam Deported From France Vows to Return

France used a new immigration law to deport a radical Imam in just 12 hours, but the target insisted that he is the victim of a misunderstanding and vowed to return.

French interior minister Gérald Darmanin hailed the nation’s new immigration law passed last year for making it easier for the government to deport undesirable foreigners after it was used on Thursday against a radical preacher. Tunisian-origin Imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi went from detention to being put on a plane in just 12 hours.

Darmanin said: “Instructions were given to issue a ministerial expulsion order against this radical ‘imam’ who made unacceptable remarks and he was the subject of a home visit and an arrest.

“Without the immigration law, this would not have been possible. Firmness is the rule.”

Per the expulsion order seen by the conservative newspaper Le Figaro, Imam Mahjoubi was accused of advocating for a panoply of extremist causes. The state accused him of promoting terrorism, and advocating a “literal, retrograde, intolerant and violent conception of Islam”. The Imam is also alleged to have discriminated against women and fermented tensions with the Jewish community.

Offences against the symbols of the state are a reasonably serious offence in France, as they are in several European nations where post-war work to prevent the resurgence of fascism treats deviance from democratic norms severely. In this category, Imam Mahjoubi is said to have called the French flag “satanic” that has “no value to Allah”. The comments came to light after a video of one of the Imam’s sermons went viral on French social media earlier this week.

Imam Mahjoubi, on the other hand, insists these accusations boil down to a misunderstanding — claiming that he was actually talking about football in his sermon and suffered a “slip of the tongue”, he claims — and that in any case, he has rights that should be respected. The government’s order under the new law is “arbitrary” and he said he was being made an example of by the Interior Minister to promote the new law.

The Imam’s lawyer said the expulsion would be contested in court.

BFMTV reports some of Imam Mahjoubi’s complaints as he vowed to return to France. He said: “I will do everything to find my loved ones, to find my job, in the coming days or weeks… My place is not here [in Tunisia], even if it is my country. [My family] are on the other side of the Mediterranean… I lived for forty years in this country, the country of human and citizen rights. I will do everything to assert my rights.”

France’s immigration bill, passed by the Emmanuel Macron government in December, proved deeply controversial and needed the support of Marine Le Pen’s populist anti-mass migration group to become law. Le Pen called the law, passed by the otherwise globalist-centrist Macron an “ideological victory” for her party. Critics said the law erodes the rights of migrants.

Using the tough law to dramatic effect and linking it so clearly to his leadership may also be part of Interior Minister Darmanin’s not-so-secret campaign to set himself up as a successor to Macron, who will reach his Presidential term limit in 2027.

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