Belgian Court Rejects French Extradition Request for Imam Convicted of Antisemitic Incitement
A court in Belgium on Tuesday upheld a ruling dismissing a request from France for the extradition of a fugitive imam convicted of antisemitic and misogynistic incitement.
The imam — 58-year old Hassan Iquioussen, a Moroccan citizen — had been the subject of a deportation order in France after the country’s interior ministry spotlighted his “especially virulent antisemitic speech” as well as his sermons advocating the “submission” of women to men. However, in August, when police officers arrived at Iquioussen’s home in the northern town of Valenciennes to carry out the order, they discovered that the imam had fled across the border into Belgium.
A spokesperson for the court in the Belgian city of Mons explained that the French request had been rejected because Iquioussen had not violated any Belgian laws. “The facts on which this arrest warrant is based do not constitute an offense under Belgian law,” the spokesperson said. “It is not valid, so we will not execute it.”
Earlier this year, while still in France, Iquioussen had successfully challenged the deportation order, but an appeal from French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin resulted in a reversal of that decision by the French Council of State, causing the imam to seek refuge across the border.
In an extensive interview on Tuesday with the French news outlet Le Parisien, Iquioussen insisted that he was a moderate advocate of what he called “civic Islam” and that he condemned antisemitism without reservation. He added that Darmanin was well aware of these positions, claiming that the pair had met for a dinner in 2014 at which Darmanin told him: “You are an open-minded person. If everyone was like you, we wouldn’t have a problem with some Muslims.”
Asked about his past antisemitic comments, among the assertion that the French government is “manipulated by the Jews,” Iquioussen responded: “That’s definitely antisemitism, it’s clear and unmistakable.”
But, he continued, “I am not antisemitic. I have been fighting for 40 years to prevent Muslims from falling into antisemitism.”
Iquioussen said that he had “evolved in this matter as well. Today, for example, I consider, that the question of Palestine is not religious, but purely political. So, yes, I offer a ‘mea culpa’ for some of my inappropriate remarks and some expressions that mislead my thinking. Antisemitism is a horror that must be fought and prevented through education.”
At no point did Iquioussen give any indication of whether he would comply with the French extradition request. Asked if he had a message for the French people, the imam urged them to seek out his speeches online, which would prove he was “neither a terrorist nor a separatist nor a fundamentalist.”
Nevertheless, the French interior ministry has argued that Iquioussen’s sermons “create fertile ground for separatism and even terrorism,” and that that he “remains an antisemite.” The imam “has for years spread insidious ideas that are nothing less than incitement to hatred, to discrimination and to violence,” the ministry stated earlier this year in making the case for his deportation.
In various sermons, Iquioussen denounced Jews as “stingy and usurious,” accusing them of avoiding “others they consider slaves.” He has accused Jews of having “continued to plot against Islam and Muslims.”
One sermon seemingly justified domestic violence if a wife failed to promptly feed her husband and family.
“My sister, Allah created you to work, to support and assume your responsibilities to your family,” he said. “Wait, your kids are hungry, you’re not feeding them, and they will starve. Your husband’s hungry, you’re not feeding him — of course, it’s going to end in a fight.”