French Interior Minister Under Fire Over Failed Attempt to Expel Radical Imam

By Fayçal Benhassain | September 20, 2022 | 7:11pm EDT
French police outside the house in northern France belonging to the radical iman Hassan Iquioussen, who disappeared shortly after a Council of State decision endorsing a government plan to deport him. (Photo by Francois Lo Presti / AFP via Getty Images)
French police outside the house in northern France belonging to the radical iman Hassan Iquioussen, who disappeared shortly after a Council of State decision endorsing a government plan to deport him. (Photo by Francois Lo Presti / AFP via Getty Images)

Paris (CNSNews.com) – Following a botched attempt to deport a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated imam under a new “anti-separatist” law designed to counter radical Islamism, the French interior ministry is reportedly taking steps to expel others.

Mediapart, an independent investigative online newspaper, reported that Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is preparing “a long list of imams to be expelled from France.”

Among those on the list, it said, was a former head of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France, a major umbrella organization affiliated to the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe

The interior ministry has not commented on the reports.

Darmanin has been heavily criticized over his handling of Hassan Iquioussen, an imam born in France of Moroccan parents. The minister told lawmakers in early August that he had signed an expulsion order for the imam, who he said had for years been responsible for “hate speeches,” with sermons including “calls for hatred and violence against the Jewish community in particular.”

The 58-year-old holds Moroccan citizenship, and Darmanin said that country’s government had issued a permit that would allow him to enter.

A Paris administrative court then suspended the expulsion order, saying it would amount to a “disproportionate attack” on Iquioussen’s “private and family life.” He has five children and 15 grandchildren, all French citizens.

Later in the month, however, the Council of State endorsed the decision to expel Iquioussen. It cited “anti-Semitic speech” as well as “speech on the inferiority of the woman,” calling them “acts of explicit and deliberate provocation to discrimination or hatred.”

(The Council of State, the country’s supreme court for administrative justice, also acts as legal advisor to the executive branch.)

Since that verdict was delivered on August 30, Iquioussen has been under an official order to leave France. But when police went to his house the next day he had disappeared. Amid rumors that he had fled to Belgium, he is now the subject of a European arrest warrant.

The government has come under fire over its handling of the affair.

The leftist Rebellious France movement said the Council of State decision had been political rather than judicial, charging that the executive had pressured the judiciary.

On the far right, National Rally leader Marine Le Pen said it was regrettable that “the expulsion of an Islamist is so complicated, so rare, and so late.”

The secretary-general of the center-right Republicans, Aurélien Pradié, in a radio interview questioned Darmanin’s competence, calling him “helpless” and saying that he “speaks a lot but doesn’t act a lot.”

Darmanin is widely seen as a prospective candidate to succeed President Emmanuel Macron after his second and final term. 

Iquioussen is seen as being close to the Muslim Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist organization founded in Egypt in 1928. It is considered a terrorist group by several countries, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia and, while not forbidden in France, is viewed with some suspicion. Security services keep a close watch on influential members and affiliated mosques.

According to Darmanin, Iquioussen has been listed on the government’s “S File” for 18 months. The file is a register of individuals who are considered potentially dangerous and subject to surveillance by police and intelligence agencies.

At the age of 18, Iquioussen was stripped of French nationality at the request of his father. As a result, he has since then been required to apply periodically for a permit, to enable him to continue to live and work in France. Until now, the permit has been renewed without any problems.

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