Belgium expels imam who called for burning of Jews
Mohamed Toujgani's remarks from 2009 recently resurfaced, leading government to withdraw his residency permit for 10 years, citing national security threat
BRUSSELS, Belgium — A Moroccan imam who called for the “burning of Jews” in a 2009 video was banned from Belgium in October as a national security threat, the government said Thursday.
First revealed by Belgian broadcaster VRT, the expulsion was confirmed by the Belgian Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration, Sammy Mahdi.
“This man was probably the most influential preacher in Belgium,” Mahdi told a session of Belgian parliament.
Mohamed Toujgani preached until last year at the Al-Khalil mosque in Molenbeek, one of the largest places of worship for Muslims in Belgium.
A statement said his residence permit was withdrawn on October 12.
Toujgani “has been controversial for some time. In 2009, he again called for the burning of Jews,” the statement added.
The video resurfaced in 2019, said VRT, noting that Toujgani had apologized for his remarks, citing “a slip” related to what he called “a war” waged by Israel against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Toujgani, who is head of the League of Moroccan Imams in Belgium, was under surveillance by Belgium’s domestic intelligence agency.
Mahdi said he decided on the 10-year ban “on the basis of information from the security services” and “because of signs of a serious danger to national security.”
“We will not tolerate those who divide and threaten our national security,” he said.
Mahdi told MPs that Toujgani was no longer in Belgium. According to VRT, Toujgani intends to contest his expulsion.
The imam, who has been in Belgium for 40 years, has a wife and children living in the country, according to VRT.
The Al-Khalil mosque, located in the Brussels district of Molenbeek, is run by the Islamic Mutual Aid League (LEI), which describes itself as “the largest Muslim institution in Belgium.”
It has training centers and an Arabic language school for 500 children and teenagers.
Belgian authorities have tightened their scrutiny of religious activities in Molenbeek since the deadly terrorist attacks of Paris and Brussels in 2015-16.
The attacks were planned by the Islamic State group and largely carried out by residents of Belgium, including many from the Brussels district, one of the poorest in the country.