France Deports Radical Cleric Mohamed Hammami To Tunisia

 @JaceyFortin
on November 01 2012 8:24 AM

French officials deported Muslim cleric Mohamed Hammami on charges of inciting religious hatred, putting him on a flight to his home country of Tunisia on Wednesday.

Hammami, 77, has been living in France for decades and was a cleric in central Paris.  According to a statement from France’s Interior Ministry, he was a hate preacher who often targeted France’s Jews in fiery sermons.

Hammami "encouraged violent jihad, made anti-Semitic remarks and justified the use of violence and corporal punishment against women," said the statement, according to RFI.

"These unacceptable, deliberate, repeated provocations and discrimination constitute a threat to French society and security."

Hammami was first accused of wrongdoing in January, and his assets were frozen in May, according to the BBC. He has consistently denied the charges against him.

Islamist extremism is an increasingly knotty issue in France, where an economic downturn has led to a rise in public support for nativism. Some right-wing politicians seized on this trend, using anti-immigration rhetoric in their political campaigns during the general election earlier this year. Many immigrants to France come from majority-Muslim countries in North Africa.

The situation was compounded by a violent incident in March, when a young extremist from Algeria, Mohamed Merah, killed seven people, including students at a Jewish school, during a 10-day spree in the southwestern city of Toulouse.

Newly elected president Francois Hollande promised during his own campaign to promote racial and religious tolerance, but he has also pledged to tighten up national security -- and the two goals have often conflicted.

Earlier this month, after police raids uncovered an Islamist network that had allegedly planned to target France’s Jewish community, Hollande vowed to take the threat seriously.

“I have reaffirmed that the state will not compromise in fighting racism and anti-Semitism. Nothing must be tolerated," he said on Oct. 7, according to Reuters.

He also promised to support a new legislation that allow surreptitious monitoring of the Internet activities of suspected terrorists.

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