Mon, 11 Dec 2023

A French-Moroccan imam accused of hate speech and anti-Semitism has been arrested in Belgium after trying to avoid deportation back to Morocco.

A police source said Hassan Iquioussen had been taken into custody "without incident" late Friday in Tournai, near the French border.

The Muslim preacher had been missing since the Council of State, France's highest court, gave the green light for his expulsion to Morocco.

He was also the subject of a European arrest warrant.

Iquioussen stands accused of "a proselytising speech interspersed with remarks inciting hatred and discrimination and carrying a vision of Islam contrary to the values of Republic", according to the expulsion document.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told AFP he was "delighted" with Iquioussen's arrest.

"Evading expulsion from national territory is an offence," he added.

Acts of provocation

The council said his "anti-Semitic speech" and his "systematic speech on the inferiority of women" constituted "acts of provocation ... to hatred".

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said the preacher, had been on the "S" file (for national security) by the DGSI "for 18 months" prior to the deportation order.

Europe issues arrest warrant for Moroccan imam facing deportation

The 58-year-old's lawyers had in July successfully applied to the Paris court to suspend the order, saying it would create "disproportionate harm" to his private and family life.

But this was effectively overturned with Tuesday's decision.

Born in France but of Moroccan nationality, Iquioussen has five children and 15 grandchildren, all French.

Nationality refused

When he came of age, he decided not to opt for French nationality and to keep only his Moroccan nationality, even if "he only knows his so-called country of origin through short vacations", explained his lawyer, Lucie Simon.

Iquioussen claims to have tried twice to recover his French nationality without success since he turned 18 years old.

He says his second request was refused in 1999 because of his "very strong ties" with the Union of Islamic Organisations in France, which has since become Muslims of France (MF).

In a 29 July video, viewed 228,000 times on his YouTube channel, Iquioussen claims to be "French in heart and soul, in thought and in [his] culture".

It is thanks to the famous online platform that he has built his reputation over the years: no less than 178,000 subscribers (for 33 million views) follow his courses and sermons on Islam in everyday life.

Originally published on RFI

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