An extremist Salafist mosque in the city of Marseille has been ordered to close several times over the last five years by French authorities but continues to refuse to obey the orders.
The mosque, located in the Consolat area of northern Marseille, has been ordered for years to be closed by the French government and appeared on a confidential note leaked by French media in rail on Islamist separatist mosques operating in France.
According to a report from La Journal du Dimanche, the mosque and its leader have been subjected to orders, controls, immediate closure notice and more but have simply ignored them all and carried on as if they had not received any notifications at all.
While the newspaper notes that the mosque follows Wuhan coronavirus regulations on capacity limits, none of the heads of the mosque would speak to them, including its leader, 45-year-old Imam Maamar.
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Maamar is believed to attract upwards of 1,000 worshippers and is said to follow the hard-line ideology of Salafist imam El Hadi Doudi, who was expelled from France in April of 2018 to his native Algeria due to his radical preaching that included labelling Jews as “unclean, the brothers of monkeys and pigs.”
Salah Bariki, the former community affairs adviser to former Marseille mayor Jean-Claude Gaudin stated that there are at least 80 Islamic prayer halls and mosques in the city and that 15 of them are extremist Salafist.
Last Friday, Fouad Bennebri, termed a “defacto manager” of the mosque, was in court and asked by the judge why the mosque refused to obey the closure orders.
“I don’t know, I’m just a volunteer,” Bennebri told the judge and was handed a personal fine of 3,750 euros along with a maximum fine of 15,000 euros for the association that runs the mosque.
While the French government has made attempts to crack down on both Islamic radicalism and political Islam in recent months, some of their proposals have simply been rejected by Muslim groups.
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A proposed charter of republican values was rejected by several major Islamic groups who sought to amend parts of the charter and totally rejected others such as the term “political Islam.”
“The concept of ‘political Islam’ stipulated in the article restricts the rights of Muslims or Muslim organisations to access social or political debate since they may be accused of ‘political Islam’ and prevented from exercising their democratic rights. It can also expose them to discrimination and criminalise their opinions,” the groups said in February.