LONDON: The French government has confirmed its determination to combat radical Islamism, with a senior minister saying he is prepared to change the law to remove an imam who has been accused of extremism, The Times reported.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said preacher Hassan Iquioussen is an enemy of the country and had “no place” in France.
Iquioussen, 58, has come under fire from the French political establishment and the government for his preaching, with his sermons on YouTube attracting tens of millions of views.
Darmanin said he will not allow the law to prevent him from deporting Iquioussen, who is Moroccan but has lived all his life in France. The imam has five children in the country and 15 grandchildren.
The war of words between Iquioussen and the government has been central to President Emmanuel Macron’s campaign to tackle radical Islamism. Macron has repeatedly said preachers such as Iquioussen reject French laws and values.
Darmanin announced the intended expulsion of Iquiossen “by force” last week after Morocco confirmed it had authorized his travel to the North African nation, but the plans were stopped when Iquioussen secured a legal block on his removal.
An administrative court in Paris ruled that the expulsion was a “disproportionate infringement … of (Iquioussen’s) right to a private and family life.”
Macron’s government has accused the French left of using human rights law to defend Islamists such as Iquiossen.
Darmanin has relaunched the government’s legal efforts to deport the preacher, appealing against the injunction at the State Council, France’s highest administrative court.
He told the French press that if the deportation is approved, “all French people” will support it. He added that he will change the law to remove Iquioussen if the courts block the appeal.
Darmanin also confirmed media reports that French security and intelligence agencies had lodged Iquioussen as an allegedly dangerous radical 18 months ago.
“This imam … uses antisemitic language. He denies equality between men and women. He denies genocides. He calls for terrorist attacks in France to be considered as conspiracies,” Darmanin said. “The enemies of the Republic have no place in the republic.”
Iquioussen has posted on Facebook that he “strongly contested” the allegations that he has used “discriminatory or violent language.”
His supporters say Darmanin’s use of Iquioussen’s language is dated and taken out of context.
Defending the preacher, they point out that he has said: “We have never had, and have, nothing against Jews because Islam is a religion based on justice.”