French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced he will ban radical Muslim preachers from entering the country for an Islamic conference next month, in a crackdown motivated by the recent murders perpetrated by Islamic extremist Mohamed Merah in and around the southern city of Toulouse.
Merah killed a total of seven people, including four outside of a Jewish school. Merah died following a 32-hour police siege outside his flat in Toulouse.
Sarkozy said he would ban certain Imams invited to attend a congress by the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), a group regarded as having close ties to Egypt's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
The warning comes as the French president last week warned he would also punish people who viewed radical Islamist web sites and travel abroad for indoctrination -- measures triggered by the brutal 10-day rampage of 23-year-old Merah.
I have clearly indicated that there are certain people who have been invited to this congress who are not welcome on French soil, Sarkozy told France Info radio, according to Reuters.
Sarkozy went on to name Egyptian-born Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, a prominent Sunni cleric known for his public defense of Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel and attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq.
Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar, was denied a visa to visit Britain in 2008 on grounds he would justify acts of terrorist violence or disburse views that could foster inter-community violence, a Home Office spokeswoman said at the time, according to Reuters.
However, the issue is complicated by the fact he holds a diplomatic passport and therefore does not require a visa to visit France.
But, Sarkozy added, I indicated to the Emir of Qatar himself that this person was not welcome on the territory of the French republic.
He will not come.
Referring to Merah, the French president said: Here is a young criminal who suddenly becomes a very active terrorist without any transition. As far as we know there was no cell.