Tunisian imam expelled by France says to appeal decisionFri, 23 Feb 2024 13:13:06 GMT

A Tunisian imam expelled from France for alleged hate speech said on Friday he would take legal action in a bid to overturn the decision.Mahjoub Mahjoubi, from the town of Bagnols-sur-Ceze in the south of France, denounced his removal as “arbitrary”.The 52-year-old was arrested and then deported to Tunisia on Thursday, where he arrived shortly before midnight aboard a flight from Paris.Mahjoubi had been in France since the 1980s and is married with five children.All of his family are French citizens, but he is not and had his residency permit cancelled on Sunday by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.The official order for Mahjoubi’s expulsion, seen by AFP, said that in sermons in February he had given a “retrograde, intolerant and violent” image of Islam that would encourage behaviour against French values, discrimination against women, “tensions with the Jewish community” and “jihadist radicalisation”.The imam also referred to “the Jewish people as the enemy”, according to the order, which said Mahjoubi called for “the destruction of Western society”.The imam was also accused of sharing a video in which he described the “tricolour” — without specifying if he meant the French flag — as “satanic” and of “no value with Allah”.Mahjoubi defending himself, saying it had been a “slip of the tongue” and that he was referring to rivalries between football supporters of different Maghrebi nations during the recent African Cup of Nations.”I will fight to return to France where I have lived for 40 years,” the imam told AFP in his in-laws’ house in Soliman, 30 kilometres (19 miles) east of Tunis.Mahjoubi, who runs a construction company, said his family, including his youngest child who is in hospital for cancer treatment, depended entirely on him.”My lawyer is going to take legal action in France if the court does not grant me justice, I will appeal, and then I will appeal to the European Court” of Human Rights, he added.”I did not insult the Jewish community, nor the flag of France,” he said.On Thursday, Darmanin posted on social media that the expulsion was a “demonstration” that a recently approved immigration law “makes France stronger”.The law toughening migration conditions was seen as part of the government’s response to the rise of the far-right in French opinion polls.”Firmness is the rule,” said Darmanin, who slammed what he called a “radical imam who made unacceptable comments”.Mahjoubi denounced the expulsion as being based on “an arbitrary decision”, and said Darmanin was using his case to “create a buzz around the immigration law”.