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Muslim fury over 'witch-hunt' as France continues expulsions - Independent, UK

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  • Zafar Khan
    Muslim fury over witch-hunt as France continues expulsions By John Lichfield in Paris 04 May 2004 http://news.independent.co.uk/europe/story.jsp?story=517917
    Message 1 of 1 , May 4, 2004
      Muslim fury over 'witch-hunt' as France continues
      By John Lichfield in Paris
      04 May 2004


      Controversy over the French government's crackdown on
      radical Islam deepened yesterday when Paris attempted
      to kick out another alleged extremist religious and
      political leader, the sixth in four months.

      The expulsion of Midhat Guler, a Turkish market trader
      who had lived in France for 28 years, was halted after
      he appealed for political asylum. The French
      government says he is the leader in France of an
      extremist Turkish sect called Kaplan, which is already
      banned in Turkey and Germany.

      His son, Abdurrahman, said his father was a
      non-political small businessman and former car worker,
      who was not even an imam, or preacher, and had no
      connection with extremist movements. The family's
      lawyer, Maître Adrien Namigohar, said M. Guler, 45,
      was the victim of a witch-hunt and that no firm
      evidence had been presented against him.

      Doubts have been raised by moderate Islamic leaders
      and opposition politicians about the wisdom of highly
      publicised expulsions of alleged Islamic extremists by
      the new Interior Minister, Dominique de Villepin.
      There has been a stream of similar expulsions from
      France but most without fuss.

      Two weeks ago, France ejected to Algeria Abdelkader
      Bouziane, the imam of a fundamentalist sect at
      Vénissieux, near Lyons, who had told a magazine the
      Koran approved of the beating of women. French courts
      have since ruled that M. Bouziane, who has two wives
      and 16 children, was expelled illegally. Moderate
      Islamic leaders said they detest M. Bouziane's
      teaching but disapprove of the publicity which
      surrounded his expulsion. Lhaj Thamy Breze, president
      of the union of Islamic organisations in France,
      accused M. de Villepin of adopting a "theatrical"
      approach which would increase fear of Islam in France.

      Five imams have been kicked out of France since the
      start of this year, all with little fanfare until M.
      de Villepin became Interior Minister last month. A
      further 30 mosques are said to be under surveillance
      by the security services.

      In a statement at the weekend, M. de Villepin said the
      government would continue its tough line with "people
      who call themselves imams and betray the Islamic
      message of peace" by preaching violence or encouraging
      terrorist activity. Such a policy was the in the best
      interests of moderate Muslims in France, as well as
      the country as a whole, he said.

      M. Guler, who was arrested soon after M. de Villepin
      spoke on Saturday, lived in Courtry, east of Paris.
      The French internal security service, the Direction de
      la Surveillance du territoire, says he is also the
      leader in France of the radical, Islamist movement,
      Kaplan, which wants to impose a fundamentalist Islamic
      state in Turkey. Moderate Turkish leaders in France
      said they had complained for years that Kaplan was
      allowed to operate openly although he was banned in
      Turkey and Germany. They said the small mosque
      administered by M. Guler in the 11th arrondissement of
      Paris was the organisation's "shop window" in France.

      French officials say that sermons preached at the
      mosque by visiting imams have included implied calls
      for violence against Americans, Jews and Christians.

      The expulsions of foreign imams and religious leaders
      demonstrates that most imams in the 3,700,000-strong
      Muslim community in France are not French citizens.
      The governments says eight in 10 imams are foreign and
      that many cannot speak French.

      M. Breze said that this figure was exaggerated. He
      said his organisation was quickly training imams "made
      in France", to ensure that French Islam was "no longer
      in thrall to foreigners".

      More news on France at:

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