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