France barred four Islamic preachers from entering the country after banning prominent preacher Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi and another Egyptian cleric who wanted to attend a Muslim conference in Paris. Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Interior Minister Claude Gueant said in a joint statement the four preachers “call for hate and violence … and, in the current context, present a strong risk of upsetting public order”.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, who ordered a crackdown on radical Islamists after the Toulouse killings by an al Qaeda-inspired gunman last week, said that Qaradawi and Mahmoud al-Masri were not welcome in France. The Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF), which invited the clerics to an April 6-9 conference, said it was surprised and hurt by the government’s “manifest determination to prolong a polemic … based on total ignorance”.
The four preachers – a Palestinian, an Egyptian and two Saudis – were due to take part in an annual conference in Paris hosted by the UOIF, which is close to the Muslim Brotherhood.