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France expels ‘radical’ Tunisian imam Mahjoub Mahjoubi over flag comments

Courtesy: BBC/Yahoo News

France has expelled a “radical” imam who made “unacceptable remarks” about the country’s flag, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has said.

Mahjoub Mahjoubi appeared to call the French flag “satanic” in a video that went viral online earlier this week.

Mr Darmanin said France’s immigration reforms had enabled the swift deportation of the imam.

But the imam denies any wrongdoing and said he had not meant to be disrespectful.

Mahjoub Mahjoubi, who hails from Tunisia but came to France 38 years ago, was an imam at the Ettaouba mosque in the small town of Bagnols-sur-Cèze, in the south of France.

He was arrested earlier this week after a video circulated online showing him describing a “tricolour flag” as “satanic” and saying it has “no value with Allah”.

Although he did not refer to a specific flag, many of the comments under the video assumed he meant the French flag.

The imam said later he was sorry if he had caused any offence, arguing that his remarks about the flag were a “slip of the tongue”.

On Thursday, Mr Darmanin wrote on X that he had asked for an expulsion order to be issued for Mahjoub Mahjoubi, and praised tough new immigration laws that makes it easier for France to deport foreign residents.

“Without the immigration law, this would not have been possible. Firmness is the rule”, the interior minister wrote.

French media published some of the expulsion order, which said the imam had promoted a “retrograde, intolerant, and violent image of Islam, likely to encourage behaviour contrary to the values of the Republic”.

It said his teachings encouraged discrimination against women, “tensions with the Jewish community” and “jihadist radicalisation”. According to the order, he had also referred to Jewish people as “the enemy”.

He was expelled “less than 12 hours after his arrest”, Mr Darmanin said in another post, adding that the new laws “makes France stronger”.

“We won’t let anything go,” he warned.

France’s immigration reforms have reduced protections for foreign residents and made it easier for them to be deported if they get a criminal conviction or are deemed to be a “grave threat to public order”.

French media reported that Mahjoub Mahjoubi had boarded a flight back to Tunisia on Thursday evening.

His lawyer said they would appeal his deportation.

1- Header image: Mahjoub Mahjoubi was an imam in the small southern town of Bagnols-sur-Cèze

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