radical preacher or dialogue man with moderate Islam?

Moroccan Imam Mohamed Toujgani received an order to leave the territory on October 5. The information revealed this morning by our colleagues from the VRT was confirmed by Secretary of State Sammy Mahdi. The man who had lived in Belgium since 1982 and preached in Belgium’s largest mosque is called an influential radical preacher.

According to a State Security report sent to Sammy Mahdi, the Moroccan imam represents “a danger to national security”. Without going into details, the Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration confirms: Yes, there is an order to leave the territory and a ban on re-entering Belgian territory for 10 years. I think it’s important to ensure that you live in a world where you are safe and where outside influences are minimized “.

In the afternoon, in front of the Chamber, Sammy Mahdi insists: “the security services believe that this man must be considered as a current, real and serious danger for national security. We are talking about extremism and interference here.”.

One of the incriminating elements raised by the information dates from 2009. The video of the event comes out ten years later, in 2019. We hear the imam develop these words: “Lord, Master of the Worlds, pour fear into the hearts of the oppressive Zionists. […] Lord, make the blood of the martyrs a weapon under the feet of the oppressing Zionists, and let this blood be a blazing fire that burns them and a wind that blasts them. […] O Lord, demolish them “. A speech summarized today by Sammy Mahdi as an incitement to burn the Jews. In 2019, the imam apologized and invoked a critical geopolitical context “.

Interference from Morocco?

According to well-informed sources within the intelligence services, this decision to withdraw Mohamed Toujgani’s residence permit would be a signal given by our country to the Moroccan authorities. One way to put a stop to the interference of their secret services on Muslim worship in Belgium.

We will recall that in December 2020, the Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne failed to recognize the Grand Mosque of Brussels. And this because of suspicions of Moroccan interference on the part of the State Security.

Contacted again today, the office of the Minister of Justice, in charge of worship, did not wish to comment on this news.

His lawyer is outraged

Georges-Henri Beauthier, Imam Toujgani’s lawyer, is outraged by this order to leave the territory. The more so as it has a judgment dated October 1, 2021. Twenty-six pages in which the court considers that nothing prevents his client from being recognized as Belgian and that he would not ask danger to society.

With reference to his controversial remarks, the imam admits to being an anti-Zionist, but refuses to be qualified as an anti-Semite. “He also denies having used this sentence which calls for the Jews to be burnt”, insists Me Beauthier. Before continuing: The Secretary of State’s statements are shocking. One, there is the separation of powers which requires him not to take a position on a judgment that says very clear things. And two, why throw in the pasture false things calling for hatred? Someone who is said to want to burn the Jews is someone who risks a series of invectives if not more dangerous acts “.

The Executive of the Muslims of Belgium

At the end of the day, the Executive of the Muslims of Belgium (EMB) wished to react following the many requests received. “The EMB wishes to stress that it has no link of authority with the imams not attached to the subsidized mosques”.

The Executive recalls, moreover, that it had firmly condemned “the anti-Semitic remarks of the imam who, in the meantime, regretted his remarks and apologized to the Jewish community in Belgium”.

Amazement in Molenbeek

In Molenbeek, municipal councilor Ahmed El Khanouss says he is amazed, speaks of a man who works to bring communities together: “He took part in many activities with Catholics and with the Chief Rabbi of Brussels Albert Guigui”. On the violent speech of 2009, the municipal councilor believes that these sentences have been taken out of context. “It was a time when Israel was bombing Gaza”, he recalls.

Also contacted, the mayor of Molenbeek, Catherine Moureaux, declares: Having regard to the function of President of the League of Moroccan Imams of Belgium of Mr. Toujgani, I dare to hope that Mr. Mahdi really has an important new element to explain the taking of this decision. Personally, as moreover my competent police services, I was not informed of the occurrence of a new element concerning Mr. Toujgani “.

An observer of the Muslim world also speaks to us of a man of dialogue. Abdessamad Belhaj is a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Studies of Islam in the Contemporary World (CISMOC) at UCLouvain. “Imam Toujgani is not radical, he practices a moderate Sunni Islam even if it is traditionalist and sometimes emotional. He calls for living together, social peace and prevention against radicalization”.

A source close to the Moroccan authorities also confided in us his astonishment: “Imam Toujgani practiced moderate Islam and had never posed a problem”, he assures us.

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