France Takes Lead in "Europe-Wide Crackdown" on Extremist Imams

May 6, 2004

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

On May 6, 2004 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "As European governments crack down on radical imams as part of their battle against Islamic terrorism, they have laid bare a central problem for millions of their Muslim citizens: a lack of homegrown religious leaders to guide their integration into Western societies. Overwhelmingly foreign, and sometimes speaking only Arabic, Europe's imams often have little understanding of their host countries, and their teachings run counter to modern European values and gender roles, say Muslim leaders and government officials...France has taken the lead in a Europe-wide crackdown on radical clerics. French officials have deported two allegedly fundamentalist imams in recent weeks, and are threatening to expel three more. Italy expelled a Senegalese imam last November, and the British government is seeking to deport the Egyptian born radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, accusing him of supporting al Qaeda. 'Under the cover of religion, individuals present on our soil have been using extremist language and issuing calls for violence,' French Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said Saturday. 'These favor the installation of terrorist movements. It is necessary therefore to oppose this together and by all available means'...Some Muslim leaders fear the government has made political use of the affair. 'They are dramatizing it so as to show that all imams are foreign,' complains Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the influential Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF). 'They are preparing the ground to set up a government institute to train imams, and we are against such government interference.'"