France deports imam who incited wife-beating

21st April 2004, Comments 0 comments

LYON, France, April 21 (AFP) - An Algerian Islamic cleric whose endorsement of wife-beating and polygamy caused an uproar in France was deported Wednesday to Algeria, police said.

LYON, France, April 21 (AFP) - An Algerian Islamic cleric whose endorsement of wife-beating and polygamy caused an uproar in France was deported Wednesday to Algeria, police said.

Abdelkader Bouziane, imam of a mosque in a suburb of this eastern French city, sparked outrage when he told the April issue of a local magazine he was polygamous, believed that "beating your wife is authorised by the Koran" and said he hoped "the entire world becomes Muslim."

The French interior ministry announced the arrest Tuesday of Bouziane, a 52-year-old father of 16 children who all have French nationality.

It said he had been taken to Lyon airport for deportation under an order issued in February which deemed he was a threat to public order. The ministry said Bouziane's reported comments "confirm the solid grounds for the deportation decision."

He was put on a plane for Algeria early Wednesday, police said.His deportation came a week after that of another Algerian imam who had been living in the western French city of Brest.

That cleric, Abdelkader Yahia Cherif, was put on a ship to Algeria after authorities said he had tried to convert people to radical Islam and had relations with Islamic groups believed to be in contact with "organisations planning terrorist acts".

Both moves came amid stepped-up surveillance in France of Islamic extremism. The country has an estimated Muslim population of five million - Europe's largest - and tensions have flared most recently over a government decision to ban Islamic headscarves in state schools.

The magazine which published the interview with Bouziane, Lyon Mag, issued a statement saying it regretted his deportation without him having a chance to defend himself, "even if his comments were scandalous."

It said the interview had been published three weeks ago and questioned why authorities had chosen to act now.

It said its editorial staff had recently received a telephone call "from a ministerial office which apparently was preparing a media event" around Bouziane.

The swift arrest and deportation of the imam was the first major action by the interior ministry since it was put under the charge of Dominique de Villepin, the former foreign minister, in a government re-shuffle last month.

The ministerial changes were sparked by a stunning defeat in regional elections for President Jacques Chirac's administration, which has taken a firm stance against illegal immigration, anti-Semitic behavious and crime.

Bouziane had been preaching a Salafist version of Islam - one based on a literal interpretation of the Koran - in and near Lyon since the early 1990s.

His lawyer, Mahmoud Hebia, said Bouziane had arrived in France in 1980 and was given a 10-year renewable residency permit.

He added that he had lodged a legal challenge to the original deportation order before the imam was flown out, calling the accusations "vague" and containing "irregularities".

Bouziane did not understand why his comments resulted in such a dramatic reaction, Hebia said.

"He said that this reasoning already existed in the basic text of the Koran and that he had the right to freely express himself in this country," the lawyer said.

© AFP

                                          Subject: French news

 

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