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26.11.2020 Europe

French mosque linked to teacher's beheading ordered to remain closed

By Jan van der Made - RFI
REUTERS/Antony Paone
LISTEN NOV 26, 2020
REUTERS/Antony Paone

The French Council of State has confirmed the six-month closure of the Grand Mosque of Pantin after it published a video denouncing history teacher Samuel Paty for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, which lead to his decapitation in a street near his school.

The council's judgement confirms an earlier ruling by a French administrative court, after the request by the Interior Ministry.

The Muslim Federation of Pantin, which manages the Pantin mosque, appealed to France's highest administrative court in October after it was ordered to close for six months.

The organisation's president M'hammed Henniche on Monday pleaded for the sanction to be shortened.

'Violence, hatred and discrimination'

But in a statement, the Council of State declared the closure justified.

The presiding judge criticised the video published on the Grand Mosque of Pantin's Facebook page on 9 October. In it, the father of a student from the primary school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris, expressed anger against history teacher Samuel Paty, whom he named, for his class on freedom of expression, in which he showed cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed. 

The judge said the video featured remarks that could provoke “violence, hate and discrimination”, which, according to Article L227-1 of France's Internal Security Law, justifies the closure of a religious site.

One week after the video was posted, Paty was decapitated near the school.

The judge accused the mosque's imam of being involved in “radical Islamist activities” in the Greater Paris region, saying he was trained in a fundamentalist institute in Yemen, and that his sermons were broadcast on a website known to publish Salafist fatwas of Saudi sheiks.

BarakaCity ban upheld

Other arguments to keep the mosque closed involved allegations that the site had become a gathering place for individuals with "radical ideas".  

The judge said the Muslim Federation of Pantin could request the mosque could request its reopening "when it has taken measures aimed at preventing a repetition of the dysfunctions noted”, to be demonstrated in the choice of imam and monitoring the public and social networks it controls.  

In a parellel ruling, the Council of State upheld the dissolution of the BarakaCity association, a Muslim charity that was also accused of inciting "hatred, violence and discrimination".

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