Europe expels more imams

European countries have stepped up the expulsion of imams (Muslim preachers) since last month's deadly bombings in London.

    Muslim leaders have vowed to monitor new expulsions

    France has expelled two and it plans to ship home eight others while 

    Italian authorities have deported eight Palestinian preachers for not holding the proper residency papers.

    Shaken by new attacks on European soil, the authorities have stepped up a policy of deporting Islamic clerics accused of whipping up hatred and violence in vulnerable, disenfranchised pockets of the continent's Muslim community.

    Some were ousted for immigration paper violations; others for suspected ties to suspected terrorist groups or for spouting calls for jihad.

    In one French case, an imam who was ordered to quit the country in 1999 was belatedly sent packing after he turned up in the southeastern city of Lyon.

    Muslim leaders, concerned about a possible backlash against Muslims in Europe, vow to monitor new expulsions to prevent abuses of civil liberties.

    "They feel it is going to aggravate even more this sort of discrimination, the finger-pointing, at a community"

    Dalil Boubakeur, French Council of the Muslim Faith chief

    "The bombings in London very much shocked public opinion in Europe," Paris mosque director Dalil Boubakeur, who also heads the French Council of the Muslim Faith, said in a phone interview.

    "It's completely normal for a government to be strong and apply the law. What we are asking is that it is simply just."

    Most Muslims oppose "self-proclaimed imams" who discuss politics, but "expulsions are the solution when there are no other solutions. It's extreme", he added.

    "They feel it is going to aggravate even more this sort of discrimination, the finger-pointing, at a community... We have already seen desecrations [of religious sites] and insults."

    The authorities are pressing ahead anyway.

    Key cases

    On Tuesday, Italy expelled eight preachers - all Palestinians - who were found riding in two trucks near the central town of Perugia, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

    They were expelled because they did not have any papers allowing them to live or work in Italy, the report said.

    "Britain let violent speeches go on too long. Laxity in this area isn't good for anybody"

    Boubakeur

    Britain, which does not deport people if they risk torture or other maltreatment in their home countries, has jailed Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri for allegedly encouraging the murder of Jews and other non-Muslims.

    French police expelled two imams in the past two weeks, and will deport eight others by month's end, said Interior Ministry spokesman Franck Louvrier in a phone interview.

    Abdelhamid Aissaoui, an Algerian imam convicted in 1999 for playing a role in an attempted attack on a high-speed TGV train, was deported on 23 July.

    New laws

    Aissaoui, 41, had been sentenced to four years behind bars and ordered to leave France, but authorities recently found him working as a part-time imam in Lyon. It was not clear if he had ever left France.

    Recent attacks in Europe have
    led to a backlash against Muslims 

    On Friday, authorities shipped 35-year-old Reda Ameuroud home to Algeria for exhorting fellow Muslims to wage jihad in speeches at a mosque in Paris.

    A French law passed last year permits the expulsion of non-citizens for inciting "discrimination, hatred or violence" against any group. Five Islamic clerics were deported in 2004.

    London is planning anti-terrorist legislation by year-end that will outlaw any "indirect incitement" of terrorism - targeting extremist clerics who glorify terrorist acts. The government is also examining its power to deport such clerics.

    "Britain let violent speeches go on too long," acknowledged Boubakeur of the Paris mosque. "Laxity in this area isn't good for anybody."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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