The controversial Salafist preacher Imam El Hadi Doudi was expelled to Algeria following a lengthy legal process. The 63-year-old’s expulsion followed a deportation order issued by the French Interior Ministry on Tuesday. Doudi’s expulsion application was suspended pending a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which finally ruled in favor of the deportation on Thursday.
A confidential government investigative report, seen by the New York Times, cited numerous sermons by Doudi, where he preached that Jews are “unclean, the brothers of monkeys and pigs.” Women, the preacher stressed, could not leave their homes without authorization, and an apostate “needs to be eliminated by the death penalty to protect Muslims.”
In its expulsion application, the French Interior Ministry cited the radical imam’s “deliberate incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence against a particular person or group of persons”, notably women, Jews, Shiites and people committing adultery.
“This expelled imam is in no way affiliated with the [religious affairs] sector, except that he is Algerian,” said Algeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Aissa.
The decision has not come without criticism. “He has been in France for thirty years, he’s never preached anything of the sort,” said one of the mosque’s worshippers. “It’s the opposite: it’s the older people that pacify the young ones. We’ve done work with them that no minister has ever done!” Others referenced a letter sent by former president Hollande addressed to Doudi, after he condemned the Paris terror attacks.
Doudi’s lawyer didn’t deny the mosque’s Salafist leanings, “but between inflammatory, orthodox, and rigorist [interpretations] there is a gap. Was Mr. Doudi violating the law when he preached? In forty years in France, he has not been the subject of any criminal conviction!”
For M’hammed Henniche, the truth is “between the two.” The Secretary General of the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis knows El Hadi Doudi and had the opportunity to listen to many of his sermons. His association acted as the intermediary when the state decided to close a mosque in Stains whose imam was also considered too radical. The imam concerned was fired, but the mosque was able to reopen. “The intelligence services know France’s Islam very well,” Henniche said. “The problem is not a matter for politicians, who need to highlight these closures to stick to their agenda. But when we go beneath the surface, we find nothing. For them, Salafism has become a catch-all.”
Henniche stated that the Salafist movement from which El Hadi Doudi comes would categorically condemn violence: “The terrorists are called disbelievers or dogs of hell, other strands of Islam do not even go so far [as to say that] …” he insisted. For Henniche, if Doudi was radicalized, it was in other domains: “For example, instructing his worshippers not to mix with the other sex, or not to go to a party where alcohol is served, where girls dance, etc. If that’s what they’re criticizing, these are legitimate arguments. But then, if politicians are being frank and open about the debate: is this type of Islam, which does not advocate violence, tolerated in France? When speaking about sermons inciting violence, we add to the anger of those worshippers who have heard the opposite.”
Another worshipper concluded, “If someone has something against the imam, why not expel him and leave the mosque open? We punish all of us?”