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Sarkozy Says France Will Bar Some Muslim Clerics

France's President and candidate for re-election in 2012, Nicolas Sarkozy, gestures as he delivers a speech during a meeting in Ormes, France on Monday.
Michel Euler

In the aftermath of the Toulouse shootings, French President Nicholas Sarkozy said his country would bar some Muslim clerics from entering the country.

According to Al Arabiya, Sarkozy said he spoke to the Emir of Qatar to request that Yousef Al-Qarwadi, an Egyptian who is considered one of the most prominent Sunni Muslim clerics, not be allowed to travel to France.

"I made it clear that a certain number of people invited by the Union of French Islamic Organizations will be denied entry if their values contradict those of the Republic," Sarkozy said according to Al Arabiya.

The New York Times reports that the announcement was quickly criticized by the International Union of Muslim Scholars. The Times reports:

"Its secretary-general, Sheik Ali al-Qaradaghi, admonished France, but said the group would respect French sovereignty, while noting that France had played an important role in Libya and Syria. He called Mr. Qaradawi 'a moderate scholar who contributed to combating extremism in Islamic thought' and noted that the organization had condemned the Toulouse shootings, according to Agence-France Presse.

"Mr. Qaradawi was invited to a conference of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, which is considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood. French officials did not provide the names of other clerics who would not be allowed to attend."

Ahmed Jaballah, the president of the Union of Islamic Organizations, said he regretted the decision, according to Reuters.

"This is a great, learned Muslim known for his moderation and balance," Jaballah said.

The Times points out there are two big things possibly driving this decision from Sarkozy: The Toulouse shootings were carried out by an al-Qaida-inspired Frenchman and this is fallout. Also, Sarkozy is facing a tough reelection campaign and his main challenger François Hollande " has begun to question Mr. Sarkozy's record on security and law and order, pointing out a high murder rate, gang violence and a reduction in the number of police officers in France."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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