France is likely to close up to 160 mosques in the coming months as part of a nationwide police operation under the state of emergency which allows places of worship that promote radical views to be shut down, one of the country’s chief imams has said.
Following news that three mosques have already been closed since the November 13 attacks on the capital, Hassan El Alaoui, who is in charge of nominating regional and local Muslim imams and mediating between the imams and prison officials, told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that more were set to be shut.
“According to official figures and our discussions with the interior ministry, between 100 and 160 more mosques will be closed because they are run illegally without proper licenses, they preach hatred, or use takfiri speech,” he said.
Takfiris are classified as Muslims who accuse others of the same faith of apostasy, an act which has become a sectarian slur.
“This kind of speech shouldn’t even be allowed in Islamic countries, let alone secure countries like France,” El Alaoui, who became the first Muslim prison chaplain-general in 2005, said.
The recent mosque closures, he added, were made under “a legal act that the authorities have” and must have happened because “of some illegal things that they found”.
The imam also rejected those suspected of carrying out the suicide bomb and gun attacks, which left 130 people dead, as “terrorists”.
“Those terrorists are a bunch of thieves and drug dealers that wore religious clothing,” he said. “The whole issue is not about Muslims, but about terrorists. It’s an issue of security for everyone.”
There are a total of 2,600 mosques in France, El Alaoui said.