France: Mosque closed due to Imam's 'extreme speeches'

 A mosque in the northern French province of Oise has been closed due to an imam's extreme speeches, which have been described as "defending jihad."

Local officials have announced that the mosque in Beauvais would be closed for six months.

According to Oise's prefect, lectures there referred to jihadist combatants as "heroes" and incited hatred and violence.

France has been inspecting Islamic houses of worship suspected of having ties to extremism.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said two weeks ago that he would begin the process of closing the Great Mosque of Beauvais, 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Paris, since the imam was "targeting Christians, gays, and Jews" in his lectures.

Authorities set the mosque a 10-day deadline to react.

The mosque's imam said to be a recent convert to Islam, as reported by local daily Courrier Picard.

According to a lawyer representing the mosque's management organization, his words were "taken out of context."

The imam, who was "speaking on a voluntary basis," had been suspended from his duties, according to the lawyer.

The interior ministry, on the other hand, stated that the guy, who was "presented as an infrequent speaker but who, in reality, serves as a regular imam," promoted "a strict practice of Islam" and "its superiority to the laws of the Republic."

Muslims are being pushed to sign a French values charter.

The beheading of a teacher exacerbates differences in France.

Mr Darmanin vowed last year a crackdown on mosques with extremist affiliations, threatening to shut any if found to be advocating "separatism."

It was in response to the execution of teacher Samuel Paty and the fatal stabbing of three people in Nice's cathedral in October 2020, both of which were blamed on Islamist militants.

France's interior ministry said it has examined roughly 100 mosques and prayer halls in recent months for similar extremism, out of a total of more than 2,620 in the country.

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