Raffarin 'reassures' Muslims on mosque arrests

4th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 3 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday sought to reassure Muslim leaders that a government pledge to expel radical imams was not a bid to undermine the five-million-strong community as a whole.

PARIS, May 3 (AFP) - French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin on Monday sought to reassure Muslim leaders that a government pledge to expel radical imams was not a bid to undermine the five-million-strong community as a whole.

After talks with Raffarin, Dalil Boubakeur, leader of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (CFCM), said the prime minister "wants to reassure the Muslim community" of "his willingness to treat it as he treats other faiths".

"In his mind, there is no lumping together of the expulsion of imams and the Muslim community in general," Boubakeur told reporters.

The meeting came as French authorities were mulling whether to expel Midhat Guler, a Turkish director of a Paris mosque accused of leading an extremist Islamic movement, and a month after the deportation of an Algerian imam.

Guler, who was detained late Saturday, "is the leader in France of an extremist Turkish Islamic movement that advocates resorting to the use of violence and terrorism," the interior ministry said Sunday in a statement.

The 45-year-old Turkish national applied for political asylum in France, which temporarily blocked his expulsion, but the request was denied on Monday.

A judge ruled later Monday that Guler could stay at home rather than in administrative detention pending review of the expulsion order.French officials said Guler was the leader of the "Islamic Association in France," but his son told AFP that neither he nor his father belonged to "any Turkish extremist organization, or any organization for that matter".

Guler told journalists upon his return home he had never advocated any extremist views.

"I am a Muslim and I have never held any extremist views.... There is no radical Islam or soft Islam, only the Islam of the Prophet."

He said he did not understand why he was ordered expelled from France.CFCM secretary general Haydar Demiryuek said the mosque was run by the "ultra-fundamentalist" Kaplanci movement, which "calls for the creation of an Islamic state in Turkey". The movement is banned in Germany.

Last month, the French government suffered an embarrassing setback when a court ruled illegal the deportation of imam Abdelkader Bouziane to his native Algeria.

The interior ministry ordered his expulsion after the 52-year-old, from the southeastern city of Lyon, was quoted justifying wife-beating.Bouziane has since applied for a visa to return to France.

Boubakeur said it was essential that imams "not mix politics and religion", adding that his council would work with the government to draw up a list of imams authorized to preach in France and set guidelines about training.

Elsewhere, a building due to house a Turkish mosque in the central French town of Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert suffered damage at the weekend, with swastikas daubed on the facade, a window broken and a door burnt down.

© AFP

Subject: French news

 

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