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– Twenty-First Century Crusades?
Continued tension and backlash against
Muslims in Europe.
Imams Facing More Scrutiny in
By JAMEY KEATEN, Associated Press Writer
PARIS -- Since the deadly terror bombings in London, Italian authorities
have deported eight extremist Muslim prayer leaders for not holding the
proper residency papers. France has expelled two imams and plans to ship
home another eight. And Britain has put many clerics under close watch
as the country re-examines its power to deport them.
near-simultaneous blasts on July 7 in London killed 56 people --
including four suicide-bombers -- and injured hundreds,
application of those laws
has become more robust.
Shaken by new terrorism on European soil, officials have stepped up a
policy of deporting Islamic clerics accused of whipping up hatred and
violence in vulnerable, disenfranchised pockets of the continent's
mostly moderate Muslim community.
Several European countries enacted expulsion policies after the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks on the United States, saying legislation was needed to
ensure public order and security.
After four near-simultaneous blasts on July 7 in London killed 56 people
-- including four suicide-bombers -- and injured hundreds, application
of those laws has become more robust.
Some imams were ousted for immigration paper violations, others for
suspected ties to terror groups or for spouting calls for holy war,
according to authorities. 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.
Moderate Islamic leaders, concerned about a possible backlash against
Muslims in Europe, vow to monitor new expulsions to prevent abuses of
"The bombings in London very much shocked public opinion in Europe,"
said Paris mosque director Dalil Boubakeur, a moderate who also heads
the French Council of the Muslim Faith. "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, he
said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. He called the
expulsions extreme and said they could aggravate the situation and lead
to more "finger-pointing" and anger aimed at Muslims.
"We have already seen desecrations (of religious sites) and insults," he
Authorities are pressing ahead anyway.
Counterterrorism teams and police are under orders to increase
surveillance of suspected radicals by staking out mosques or secret
prayer halls, monitoring mobile-phone traffic and deploying hundreds
more video surveillance cameras in suspected extremist hotbeds.
On Tuesday, Italy expelled eight Islamic fundamentalist 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 didn't have papers allowing them to live or work in Italy,
the report said.
An intelligence report presented in Italy's parliament Wednesday took to
task imams who preach extremist messages. Ten people, mostly North
Africans, are on trial in Italy for allegedly belonging to a terror cell
based at a mosque in the northern Italian town of Cremona.
German authorities recently ordered several Islamic radicals to leave
the country, including Abdelghani Mzoudi, a Moroccan acquitted on
charges of aiding the Sept. 11 hijackers. He left Germany on June 21.
Britain, which said it 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. U.S. prosecutors have charged him with trying to
set up a terrorist camp in the state of Oregon.
Omar Mahmoud abu Omar, a Palestinian Islamic extremist better known as
Abu Qatada, who also lives in Britain, has been sentenced in Jordan in
absentia for his alleged role in a series of explosions and terror
plots. He is free but under close watch in Britain.
Over the years, Britain has been hesitant to expel people who could face
maltreatment abroad. But London is planning anti-terror legislation by
year-end that will outlaw any "indirect incitement" of terrorism --
targeting extremist clerics who glorify terror 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."
In France, 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
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.
On Friday, authorities shipped 35-year-old Reda Ameuroud home to Algeria
for exhorting fellow Muslims to wage holy war in speeches at a mosque in
A French law passed last year permits expulsion of noncitizens for
inciting "discrimination, hatred or violence" against any group. Five
Islamic clerics were deported in 2004.
French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy wasted little time after the
London bombings, vowing "a wide-scale action of early detection" and
expulsions of anyone who violates the law.
Pascal Mailhos, head of France's police intelligence agency
Renseignements Generaux, told Le Monde newspaper last month that about
20 French mosques are run by radical Islamic groups. He said about 1,600
prayer halls in the country are being watched.