The French government has threatened to close dozens of mosques that have been flagged as potential security threats. The measures are part of an aggressive campaign to weed out Islamic extremism in the country.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Thursday that authorities were targeting 76 mosques suspected of promoting “separatism.”
In an interview with RTL radio, he claimed that in “some concentrated areas” of the country, mosques are “clearly anti-Republican.” He said France’s intelligence services have “followed” imams who preach ideas “counter to our values.” Darmanin stressed, however, that the institutions that have been identified as potential risks are just a fraction of the more than 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France.
“In the coming days, checks will be carried out on these places of worship. If ever these doubts are confirmed, I will ask for their closure,” he wrote in a tweet commenting on the interview.
He also announced that 66 illegal migrants suspected of “radicalization” had been deported.
The crackdown is part of a “massive and unprecedented” set of government measures designed to curtail religious “extremism” in the country, Darmanin said.
The government initiative follows a string of recent Islamist attacks in France, beginning with the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty in October. Paty was targeted by a radicalized Chechen refugee after showing his class caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed as part of a lesson on free speech. Nearly two weeks later, three people were killed in a knife attack in Nice. The suspect is a Tunisian migrant who was reportedly radicalized.