PARIS - The French government is planning to expel a number of Muslim imams on accusations of preaching hatred and racism in the European country.
Â"We will expel all these imams, all these foreign preachers who denigrate women, who hold views that run counter to our values and who say there is a need to combat France, Interior Minister Manuel Valls told a press conference in Brussels cited by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
From this point of view it is necessary to stand very firm, and we will."
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France has expelled several imams in recent months on claims of preaching hatred in the country.
In October, a Tunisian imam was expelled on claims of spreading anti-Semitic views.
Imams were also barred from entering France under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, including prominent scholar Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the president of the International Union for Muslim Scholars.
The restrictions followed the killing of seven people, including three Jewish children, by a self-proclaimed Qaeda gunman in the southern city of Toulouse in March.
Valls argued that the killer, Mohamed Merah, did not work along, but had many contacts in France and abroad andlived in a [radical] environment.
This forged the process of radicalization that led him to kill, he said.
The planned expulsion comes shortly after Paris sent troops into Mali to fight Islamist rebels taking control of the north.
The military involvement has raised worries of possible attacks in the European country.
The French minister said the expulsion would target Salafist groups that aim to monopolize the cultural association and political system.
'I am not confusing radical Islam and French Islam,'' Valls said.
''There are religious communities, and there are self-styled Salafist groups, which are taking part in a political process, and which aim to take over the world of associations, to enter the school system and affect the consciences of a certain number of families.
In October, French police arrested 12 suspects of charges of radicalization in a series of anti-terror raids across the country.The arrests followed the killing of a Muslim convert, Jeremie Louis-Sidney, in a shootout with police in Strasbourg.
France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, Europe's largest.
French Muslims have been complaining of growing restrictions on their religious freedoms.
In 2004, France banned Muslims from wearing hijab, an obligatory code of dress, in public places. Several European countries followed the French example.
France has also outlawed the wearing of face-veil in public.
Under former president Nicolas Sarkozy, France had adopted a series of measures to restrict Muslim freedoms in an effort to win support of far-right voters.
The French government had held a national debate on the role of Islam in French society.
Paris had also outlawed Muslim street prayers, a sight far-right leader Marine Le Pen likened to the Nazi occupation.Muslims have also complained of restrictions on building mosques to perform their daily prayers.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net