Tuesday, May 04, 2004

To the West of Allah?

Paris police have arrested Turkish imam and 28-year resident of France Midhat Guler in order to expel him. The Interior ministry accuse him of leading an extremist group that advocates terrorism. In a statement on their Web site, the Interior ministry say that there had been a standing arrest and deportation order for imam Guler since April 30 and that Guler was apprehended during a routine traffic stop and placed in administrative detention. Guler has since applied for political asylum in France and the Ministry say they will seek to prolong his detention pending his application.

Reuters reports that Gulat's son Abdulrahman says his father didn't even preach at the mosque and was just its caretaker. They report that he says his father doesn't understand why authorities are holding him and Abdulrahman as saying, "My father has presided over this mosque since 1984, there have never been problems, not an anti-Semitic word or anything, never."

The Guardian reports that there have been five such expulsions in the past four months, adding that the Interior ministry say that just 10% of France's 1,000 to 1,500 imams are French citizens, that many of the rest are undocumented, and that less than half speak French.

On April 20, French authorities arrested Imam Abd al-kader Bouziane of Vénissieux, who preached wife-beating, and then expelled him from France only to watch him be readmitted, to their frustration and embarassment.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris head of the French Council on the Islamic Faith (CFCM), gave an interview to Libération on April 29th. Boubakeur has sought to include the council in expulsion decisions but was not consulted in the case of imam Bouziane. He commented, "the handling of this case was distressing. The authorities came away flouted and embarrassed. And, among the Muslim community, this purely law-enforcement handling of events may cause the opposite of the pacification they seek."

However, the next day, Boubakeur claimed his words had been misinterpreted and that he never said that "in the handling of [the case of Abdelkader Bouziane, imam of Vénissieux] the authorities came away flouted and embarrassed." He said that he intended to criticize "the media portrayal and not the authorities' actions," which Boubakeur says he approves of "because it is consistent with public order." Those who read the full interview can see, however, that unless Boubakeur denies practically all of the statements he gave Libé, his intention was clearly to damn the government's actions. He did not mention the press at all. Libé say the stand by the entire interview.