“No matter how much good you bestow upon a woman, she will deny it. Her selfishness drives her to deny it,” stated imam Mohamed Khattabi during a Friday sermon at the Aicha Mosque in Montpellier on March 6, two days before International Women’s Day.

Standing in the mosque’s minbar, Khattabi continued: “This holds true for all women, whether Western, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. This is the nature of women.

“If a woman overcomes her nature and acknowledges [the truth] … Allah grants her a higher place in paradise. But if she succumbs to her nature, and refuses to acknowledge the man’s rights – or rather, the goodness that man bestows upon her – she is destined to go to [hell]…”

However earlier in the sermon, Khattabi told worshippers how Islam teaches women’s rights. “It was Islam that enabled women to raise their heads high,” he said.

A Muslim authority in the Montpellier region told FRANCE 24 that the sermon was employing a kind of “doublespeak” – sometimes moderate, sometimes radical.

Khattabi has previously drawn on Salafism and its literal interpretation of the Qur’an as well as the Muslim Brotherhood in sermons addressing international issues, most notably last summer during the conflict between Israel and Gaza.

“The Friday sermon is about love, about appeasement,” says a local religious figure, who wished to remain anonymous. “Importing such a conflict, in a mosque in front of 400 people, isn’t a good idea. It worries me – it’s the youth who hear these speeches, those who are lost and do not have the tools to analyse the words. “If imams start to mix politics with sermons, things are no longer going well.”

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