European Governments Seek Measures to Control Radical Imams

June 13, 2004

Source: Centre Daily/Chicago Tribune

On June 13, 2004 the Chicago Tribune reported, "The case [of London prayer leader Abu Hamza] also underscores the difficulties that Britain and other European countries with large Muslim minorities face as they try to cope with radical or fundamentalist preachers who hold great sway over legions of alienated young Muslim men. The preachers' messages often run counter to the basic values of liberal, Western democracies. After spurning Osama bin Laden's recent offer of a truce, European governments have been struggling to find a balance between the need to uproot potential terrorist threats and uphold the principles of free speech and religious tolerance. They want to crack down on the preachers without alienating the vast majority of Muslims who are law-abiding...One remedy under consideration by the [British] government is a law that would require all Muslim preachers to pass an English-language and culture test...Spain, still reeling from the train bombings that left 191 dead in Madrid three months ago, has adopted an approach similar to France's. Last month, new Interior Minister Jose Antonio Alonso announced reforms that give the government control over the funding of mosques and allow it to monitor the content of sermons. Mansur Escudero, president of Spain's Islamic Council, called the measures an attack on religious freedom, but Mustafa el-Mrabet, head of the country's Moroccan Immigrant Workers Association, endorsed the idea, saying government funding would loosen the grip of Saudi-sponsored imams whose Wahhabist vision of Islam is at odds with Western norms."