The left-wing French government has ordered the closure of a mosque in the resort town of Cannes, following reports it was being used to support extremist Islamist groups and promote anti-Semitism, France’s interior minister confirmed on Wednesday.
In an interview with French broadcaster CNews, Gerald Darmanin revealed his department had received evidence that showed attendees of the mosque supporting CCIF and BarakaCity, two organizations that had been shut down by authorities late last year for spreading Islamist propaganda.
Darmanin explained that he had consulted with the mayor of Cannes, David Lisnard, prior to action being taken to shut down the Islamic place of worship, which becomes the latest in a number of mosques which the French government has cracked down on in recent months, conveniently just before the French presidential election in April.
The crackdown comes at a time before upcoming French presidential elections, with French President Emmanuel Macron fearing that his open borders policies may be a threat to his reelection chances, especially given a number of high-profile Islamic terror attacks in 2020, which still haunt his presidency.
He has since taken a strong rhetorical line against illegal immigration, radical Islam and hot-button social issues, but has done little to stem the flow of immigration into the country, which has reached record numbers. In many cases, Macron has called for progressive changes to French society, including introducing Arabic into the French schooling system, in an effort to appeal to all sides of the political spectrum.
Up to 70 mosques under suspicion
Just two weeks ago, local authorities forcibly closed the Beauvais mosque in the north of the country for an initial period of six months after concerns over the radicalized sermons by the local imam, which reportedly incited violence and included calls to “defend jihad.”
The French interior minister claimed to have initiated the closure because preachers had been “targeting Christians, homosexuals and Jews.”
In addition, a mosque in northwestern Allonnes has been temporarily closed after regional authorities indicated preachers were defending armed jihad and “terrorism.”
Darmanin revealed in the interview on Wednesday that at least 70 mosques across France were considered by the government to have been “radicalized,” following greater attempts to keep tabs on dealings within the Islamic places of worship after the brutal beheading of teacher Samuel Paty in October 2020.
At the time, the French government had vowed to crack down on radicalization across the country, with Darmanin pledging “immediate action” in what he called “massive and unprecedented action to combat separatism.”
Darmanin has not only targeted Islamic groups, but also patriotic organizations like Generation Identity in France after the group embarrassed the Macron government with an action revealing the government’s lax border security. The government has since banned the entire organization from operating.
Issues around identity and Islam are expected to feature heavily in the presidential election in the spring, with incumbent Emmanuel Macron — who is widely expected to announce his candidacy in the coming weeks — under pressure from right-wing nationalist firebrands such as Marine Le Pen and Éric Zemmour to prove he has the desire to address the country’s internal problems with Islamic extremism.