Belgian authorities are monitoring the activities of four radical imams believed to be encouraging young people into Islamist extremism. All four face expulsion from Belgium, following the example of a Moroccan-Dutch radical imam whose residence permit was revoked on Tuesday.
Flanders News reports the Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum, Migration and Administrative Simplification, Theo Francken, told fellow Representatives in the Belgian Parliament (MPs) he favours expelling the imams. This was at the same that he informed MPs the residence permit of the Moroccan-Dutch imam from Dison, a town in eastern Belgium, had been revoked banning him from returning to the country for 10 years.
The first imam was believed to be propagating a Salafist agenda as well as glorifying terrorism and armed jihad. One of his heroes is reported to be Toulouse scooter killer, Mohamed Merah, the Algerian who killed seven people including three children and an adult at a Jewish school in France in March 2012 and was himself killed resisting arrest after a 36-hour police siege of his flat.
The expelled imam came to the attention of authorities having been observed in radical circles in the Verviers area of Belgium. Verviers was the scene of the killing of two Muslim terrorists in January this year. Sky News reported they were killed in a firefight during one of 10 police raids conducted as part of an investigation into Islamist extremists returning from the Syrian civil war. It is believed that they were targeting police buildings and that an attack had been imminent when the raids occurred.
Dutch News reports the first imam is likely to return to the Netherlands. Although he can still appeal it will not prevent his expulsion, the terms of which allow him 30 days to leave the country after being officially informed of the decision. The Immigration Department is reported to be examining the papers of the other four radical imams – two Moroccans, an Algerian and an Afghan.
Francken defended measures taken to screen radical imams and returning jihadi fighters, including the expulsion of the Moroccan-Dutch imam – the first time Belgium has taken such action. In some cases steps are taken against people yet to have been convicted of committing any offence, but the Secretary of State explained:
“All western countries have such a system. I believe it’s absolutely necessary and I wonder why it hasn’t happened before.”