French authorities on Wednesday raided and shut down three mosques in the country for an alleged “pattern of radicalization,” the French interior ministry said. In the coming months, France is likely to shutter over 100 mosques, as police and security forces exercise unprecedented emergency powers following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, a French imam, quoted by Al Jazeera, said.
Of the three mosques raided, two are in the greater Paris region and one is in Lyon. Additionally, four “clandestine” prayer rooms were closed in Nice, according to media reports.
In a tweet, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that nine “radicalized individuals” were placed under house arrest following the raids on the premises of the three “pseudo-religious associations.” A 9mm handgun, a hidden hard drive, documents about an undeclared Quranic school and jihad were also discovered during the raid.
“There will be complete firmness against those that preach hatred in France,” Cazeneuve reportedly told the country’s National Assembly Wednesday.
Hassan El Alaoui, a French imam in charge of nominating regional and local imams, told Al Jazeera that up to 160 mosques may be closed in the coming months.
“According to official figures and our discussions with the interior ministry, between 100 and 160 more mosques will be closed because they are run illegally without proper licenses, they preach hatred, or use takfiri speech,” the imam told Al Jazeera.
Takfiri -- a term that is now used as a sectarian slur -- refers to Sunni Muslims who accuse others of the same faith of apostasy.
“This kind of speech shouldn't even be allowed in Islamic countries, let alone secure countries like France,” El Alaoui added.
Meanwhile, even as the French government reportedly mulls extending the state of emergency to six months from its current limit of three months, there are concerns that France's Muslim minority -- the largest in any European country -- is facing increased persecution in the country. A surge in arrests and raids following the attacks has also sparked fears that the emergency measures might be codified into permanent, and repressive, laws.
“We must not cut ties with loyal Muslims of good faith,” Jean-Paul Michel, the mayor of Lagny-Sur-Marne, where one of the raided mosques is located, reportedly said, cautioning against jumping to conclusions that all mosques in the country were hotbeds of extremism.