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France expels Tunisian cleric for calling flag ‘satanic’  



France, on Friday, expelled a Tunisian Muslim cleric named Mahjoub Mahjoubi for his radical views and unacceptable remarks, particularly for referring to the French flag as “satanic.”

The European country has made it clear since January to crack down on radical Islamism in its country by banning foreign funded clerics from coming into France to teach.

The Interior Minister of France, Gerald Darmanin, stated that Mahjoubi was expelled less than 12 hours after his arrest and emphasized that firm action will be taken against such behavior.

Mahjoubi, who was an imam at a mosque in southern France, denied any wrongdoing and claimed that his comments were taken out of context.

His lawyer mentioned that they will appeal the expulsion procedure. The expulsion order cited that Mahjoubi’s teachings promoted a narrow and violent interpretation of Islam, which could lead to behaviors against the values of the Republic, discrimination against women, tensions with the Jewish community, and jihadist radicalization.

The news also mentioned that Mahjoubi was being held in administrative detention in the Paris region before being expelled to Tunisia. The Interior Minister did not provide specific details on the expulsion process.

It was noted that the French government’s new immigration law, passed earlier that year, facilitated the swift expulsion of Mahjoubi.

This incident comes at a time when President Emmanuel Macron is facing pressure to take a tough stance on immigration and identity issues, especially with the far-right RN party leading in polls for the upcoming European elections in June.

In January 17, 2024, the French Interior Minister announced a ban on approximately 300 foreign-funded imams, mainly from Algeria, Turkey, and Morocco, from entering France.

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This measure is part of President Macron’s efforts to combat radical Islamist extremism.

The goal is to promote the training of local imams while reducing foreign influence and funding in Islamic institutions in France.

Existing foreign imams are required to be paid by French Muslim associations instead of foreign sources, with some exceptions.

The creation of the Forum de l’Islam de France (Forif) has faced criticism for not adequately representing the Muslim community.

Macron is also facing challenges in reaching an agreement on a set of principles for Islam in France and in dealing with tensions surrounding the closure of radical mosques.

The deportation of foreign radical imams, such as Hassan Iquioussen, illustrates the difficulties France is facing in balancing freedom of speech, secularism, and the fight against extremism.

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