Extremism, hatred of Jews and espionage: why imam’s residency was revoked

Extremism, hatred of Jews and espionage: why imam’s residency was revoked
Asylum and Migration Minister Sammy Mahdi. © Belga

Extremism, a hatred of Jews, misogyny and espionage are all charges that were levelled against the imam of Belgium’s largest mosque before the country’s State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) revoked his residency.

Mohamed Toujgani had been living in Belgium since the 1980s before his residency permit was revoked; now Bruzz reports that a judge listened to multiple allegations of extremism before ruling that Toujgani could become a Belgian citizen anyway.

Toujgani applied for citizenship with the commune of Molenbeek at the end of 2019, according to documents the Dutch-language news outlet was able to examine. The public prosecutor denied this application, citing a video in which Toujgani called for the burning of Jews to be burned.

When the matter was heard in court, the public prosecutor argued that Toujgani spread extremist views and had contact with multiple extremists. These include the London hate preacher Abu Qatada, who has ties with Al Qaeda; Mohamed Fizazi, who was jailed for 30 years (later pardoned) for the attacks in Casablanca; and Abu Ishaq Al Huwayni, who defended a slave market.

Misogyny and support for child marriage

According to Belgian State Security, in 2000 Toujgani told radio station Arabel that he did not like the Moroccan plan to raise the age of marriage for girls to 18, claiming that some girls are sexually mature from the age of 9 years. He also endorsed polygamy.

Toujgani himself has two wives and 11 children between them. He also considers voting illegitimate, because it involves cooperation with a government of non-believers.

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Espionage for Morocco

State Security also accuse Toujgani of espionage for Moroccan intelligence services: he spied on Moroccans in Belgium and attempted to “gain control over the Belgian Islam” as chairman of the Ligue des imams (marocains) de Belgique, as well as through training imams.

He is said to have sown hatred against Shiites, Jews and the West. Along with the video of him calling for the burning of Jews, in a 1988 sermon, Toujgani described betrayal, jealousy and hypocrisy as typically Jewish traits.

In 2004, he is alleged to have said that Jews are an insult to God.

Offered citizenship nonetheless

The judge who reviewed the case called the information “insufficiently precise” and pointed out that some of it is dated.

Despite the numerous concerns about his past conduct, the court ruled that Toujgani could become a Belgian citizen even though he failed to meet the requirement of speaking either Dutch or French.

The public prosecutor’s office appealed against the sentence, but Sammy Mahdi (CD&V) intervened to withdraw the imam’s residence permit and bar him from entering Belgium for the next ten years.

Mahdi revoked the residency permit in October of 2021, but the news only came to light last week when he announced it without providing specific detail, citing a “threat to national security”.

Toujgani is due to appeal the decision.

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