France Shuts Three Mosques Suspected Of Radicalization

This marks the first time the country has closed a place of worship on such grounds, as the three-month state of emergency continues.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve vowed Wednesday that France is holding nothing back in its extended state of emergency, as he announced that authorities had closed three mosques.

Cazeneuve confirmed in a speech that authorities had closed one mosque in Lyon and two outside of Paris since the Nov. 13 terror attacks in Paris. This was the first time France  had closed mosques “on grounds of radicalization," he said.

A major police operation was underway Wednesday in one of those mosques and in the homes of its leaders. Authorities found a handgun, a hard drive hidden behind a wall and jihadist propaganda, French TV station iTélé reported.

Police suspect that Mohammed Hammoumi, who ran the mosque until he fled to Egypt earlier this year, indoctrinated and recruited people to be radicalized in Syria. Ten of his former pupils, according to French legal documents, have already joined the Islamic State or the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front in Syria.

France's Parliament voted in the days after the Paris attacks to extend the country's state of emergency for three months and granted exceptional powers to French police and security forces. In addition to a heightened security presence in public spaces, the law allows police to search homes without a warrant, place people under house arrest and ban protests.

Cazeneuve said that the state of emergency is a protective measure, "which allows us to act lawfully so that public order can be maintained."

"In a period of 15 days, we have seized one-third of the number of arms we normally seize in an entire year," he said. This includes 334 weapons, including 34 "weapons of war."

French authorities have also carried out 2,235 searches across the country since Nov. 13, leading to 263 arrests. 

Cazeneuve originally called for the dissolution of "mosques where hate is preached" after the terrorist attacks. He also vowed to deport "foreign preachers of hate."

However, French politicians such as André Chassaigne, a National Assembly member of the Left Front party dismissed the law as excessive. "Some searches appear unfounded, or carried out too brutally," he said.

Some innocent Muslims, like a man living in Seine-Saint-Denis, have returned home at night to find their apartments ransacked.

Experts including Shadi Hamid, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, worry that the anti-Muslim backlash will end up working in jihadists' favor. “Anti-Muslim and anti-refugee sentiment really play into ISIS' hands," Hamid told The WorldPost. “The more that happens, the more French Muslims feel alienated and are susceptible to extremist recruitment.”

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