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Residence permit for controversial imam withdrawn due to national security threat

06:38 14/01/2022

Belgium’s secretary of state for asylum and migration, Sammy Mahdi, has withdrawn the residence permit of Mohamed Toujgani, the head imam of the Al Khalil mosque in Molenbeek, the largest mosque in the country.

A 10-year-old video of Toujgani in which he calls for burning Jews surfaced in 2019, but the imam was a controversial figure before that, as well. Many viewed his refusal to learn Dutch or French despite decades of living in Belgium as an opposition to assimilation.

The secretary of state says there were other indications that the Moroccan native poses a threat to national security.

“We want to send a signal: whoever sows hatred, divides our society and poses a threat to our security is not welcome in our country - not today, not in the years to come,” Mahdi said in a statement.

“In the past, we have given too much leeway to radical preachers. This man was probably the most influential preacher in Belgium. With this decision, we are making a difference and giving a clear signal that we will not tolerate those who divide and threaten our national security.”

Toujgani does not have Belgian nationality and has been ordered to leave the country. He must comply with an entry ban for the next 10 years, though he has a wife and children in Belgium.

Mahdi’s office said the deadline for appeal has already passed, but Toujgani’s lawyer disputes this.

“He once preached the burning of all Jews,” Mahdi tweeted. “Diplomatically not the easiest decision, but in the interest of our safety the only right one I could take.”

Written by Helen Lyons