The Moroccan imam Hassan Iquioussen, whom the French government wants to expel because of his vision of Islam deemed “contrary to the values of the Republic”, is a man of ambiguous speech, close to the Muslim Brotherhood and well established in the north of France. Legal dispute, political controversy, media battle: the debates around the imam fueled the French news in August, from the announcement of his expulsion to Morocco, then suspended by the administrative court of Paris who judged that it would cause “a disproportionate attack” on his “private and family life”.
The Council of State, the highest French administrative court, will decide “early next week” on the expulsion, demanded by the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.
Hassan Iquioussen, 58, is keeping a low profile. “He is resting with friends. He cut his phone” while awaiting the decision, says his son Soufiane. “My father is someone who has a complex thought, which cannot be summed up in certain sentences”, he adds, while denouncing “the lies and slander around him”.
According to Bernard Godard, a former civil servant at the French Ministry of the Interior and a specialist in Islam, Imam Iquioussen, who evolves “in the Brotherhood movement”, is “very followed everywhere in France for the 30 years he has been practicing”. He sees him more as a “lecturer” than an imam, like the Swiss Islamologist Tariq Ramadan, but “with a lower profile intellectually”. His YouTube channel, where he delivers lessons and sermons on Islam in everyday life (poverty, violence, fulfillment in the couple, etc.), has 178,000 subscribers.
“He’s a Muslim Brother,” says sociologist Samir Amghar. His credo: “A conservative Islam, but capable of adapting to society”. In other words, “one can very well be a conservative Muslim while being a full-fledged Frenchman,” he says.
He was splashed by a first controversy in 2004, pinned for remarks deemed anti-Semitic in a speech on Palestine. The interested party subsequently recognizes “inappropriate remarks” and apologizes. “Anti-Semitism is a horror,” he adds.
His name then reappears regularly in the press and public debate. In 2016, far-right senator (National Rally) Stéphane Ravier said he was “well known (…) for his desire to condemn Muslims who are guilty of apostasy to the death penalty”. Words of which it is difficult to find traces today, just like those quoted in the expulsion order from the Ministry of the Interior: “Jewish conspiracy” or “power” of Catholics and Jews to “declare war ( …) to the prophet”.
“He’s a smart guy. He was very careful,” said Bernard Godard.
Other videos, recently exhumed, but often truncated, without date or context, however highlight controversial statements on the place of women “in the kitchen”. These were judged “retrograde”, at the beginning of August, by a judge of the administrative court of Paris, who however suspended the decision of expulsion.
Soufiane Iquioussen admits that her father has already “made inappropriate comments”, or “made a mistake, like any human being”. But “it has evolved a lot in 40 years”, he adds, insisting on his calls “for appeasement”. Thus, in 2016, Hassan Iquioussen was present at a rally for Father Hamel, assassinated by jihadists in a church, alongside elected officials and representatives of religions. The socialist mayor of the city, Anne-Lise Dufour Tonini, agrees: “He made (that day) a speech that everyone applauded and that I could have signed with both hands”.
According to Mr. Darmanin, Hassan Iquioussen, is on file S (for state security) by French intelligence “for eighteen months”.
Born in France, he had decided when he came of age not to opt for French nationality. He claims to have given it up at the age of 17 under the influence of his father, and then to have tried in vain to recover it. His five children and his 15 grandchildren are French and perfectly established in the region: one son is an imam in Raismes, another ex-elected PS in Lourches.
Moroccan imam Hassan Iquioussen, whom the French government wants to expel because of his vision of Islam deemed “contrary to the values of the Republic”, is a man of ambiguous speech, close to the Muslim Brotherhood and well established in the north of France. Legal dispute, political controversy, media battle: the debates around the imam have fueled the news…