Imam who 'called the French flag satanic' has his residency permit cancelled after living in the country since the 1980s and is deported to North Africa

Monday, February 26, 2024
 – France has deported a Tunisian cleric who allegedly called the country's flag satanic.

Mahjoub Mahjoubi, 52, was flown to North Africa just 12 hours after his arrest over sermons said to go against French values. He was deported on Thursday, February 22.

Mr. Mahjoubi had gone viral on social media after apparently referring to France's three-coloured flag as 'satanic'.

He was arrested and deported despite living in the country since the 1980s and raising five children there.

Unlike them, he did not have French citizenship and had his residency permit cancelled.

The official order for Mr. Mahjoubi's expulsion said that in sermons 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' and called for 'the destruction of Western society', the indictment said.

He also allegedly described the tricolore – without saying he meant the French flag – as of 'no value to Allah'.

Mr Mahjoubi, who runs a construction company, claimed it had been a slip of the tongue, adding: 'I will fight to return to France, where I have lived for 40 years.'

He 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.'

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin said 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 opinion polls.

'Firmness is the rule,' said Mr. Darmanin, who slammed what he called a 'radical imam who made unacceptable comments'.

Mr. Mahjoubi said his expulsion was an arbitrary decision and Mr. Darmanin was using his case to 'create a buzz around the immigration law'.

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