x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

France vows to deport 'Islamic troublemakers'

Interior minister warns at opening of new Grand Mosque that France will come down hard on extremists and foreign activists trying to to stir up trouble would be swiftly deported.

STRASBOURG // The French government vowed yesterday to do more to integrate the country's Muslims but warned that it would not tolerate the country becoming a hotbed of Islamic radicalism.

In a speech marking the inauguration of the Strasbourg Grand Mosque, the biggest ever built on French soil, interior minister Manuel Valls pledged to come down hard on extremists, saying foreign activists trying to stir up trouble would be swiftly deported.

But he also held out an olive branch to the country's four million Muslims by promising state help for the construction of more mosques and for the training of Muslim clerics.

Mr Valls praised French Muslims for their measured response to the recent publication of cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.

"Islam has its place in France because the Islam of France, it is a part of France," he said at the official opening of the mosque capable of hosting 1,500 people.

Relations between the French state and a Muslim community that has its roots in former colonies Algeria and Morocco have been strained in recent years by a string of controversies pitting their faith against France's secular tradition.

Concern over radicalism among some young French Muslims has intensified after gunman Mohamed Merah's killing of seven people in Toulouse earlier this year.

Mr Valls warned yesterday that he would not "hesitate to expel those who claim to follow Islam and represent a serious threat to public order and, as foreigners, do not respect our laws and values".

He added that the Muslim community as a whole had to accept responsibility for tackling extremism, which he linked to a reemergence of anti-Semitism.

The Grand Mosque project was first launched in 1993.The cost of construction was €10.5 million (Dh49.5m).