- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Countries across Europe are working to expel radical Islamic clerics who glorify and condone acts of terrorism, in hopes of stemming the tide of extremism among impressionable Muslim youth.

France deported an imam to his native Algeria on Friday for incendiary sermons at mosques in Paris, and at least eight more extremist clerics are expected to be banished in the coming weeks.

Italy expelled eight fundamentalist Palestinian preachers on Tuesday for not holding proper residency permits, Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The British Home Office announced recently that it will introduce an anti-terror bill that criminalizes “indirect incitement of terrorism,” and is creating a database to identify those who preach intolerance and run Web sites promoting jihad, or holy war.

The measures, adopted after the July 7 London transit bombings, are part of a campaign across Europe to root out extremist imams who help radicalize disenchanted Muslim youths and recruit them for violent causes.

Reda Ameuroud, the second Algerian imam deported from France in a week, was arrested in what authorities called “a preventive anti-terror operation.”

His brother, Abderahmane, was sentenced to seven years in prison in May for assisting in the assassination of an Afghan commander in 2001.

“We will not keep people on our territory who issue calls to hatred, to violence and to the disrespect of our democratic values,” said French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy last week.

The Dutch justice minister proposed legislation last week that would make praising terrorism a punishable offense and would strip imams and others of their credentials to work, if convicted.

Austria recently passed a law authorizing the expulsion of preachers whose sermons are “a danger to public security.”

The moves have been lauded by many moderate Muslim leaders, who say that most extremist clerics are self-appointed and distort the teachings of the Koran.

“There is large support in the Muslim communities for banishing radical imams who have been able to get away with hate speech, and [they] need to be eliminated,” said Tahir Abbas, director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Culture at the University of Birmingham in England.

Even before the London bombings, many British Muslims were concerned about the influx of extremist clerics, such as Abu Hamza al-Masri and Omar Bakri Mohammed, who have taken advantage of Western freedoms to preach hatred.

“I want people like Hamza and Bakri out of my country,” said Nazir Ahmed, the first Muslim member of the House of Lords. “We can’t let them spread their ideology.”

Al-Masri is in jail awaiting trial next year and Bakri is being eyed for deportation, said British Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

Mr. Abbas urged European governments to take care to distinguish between those who voice genuine political grievances and others who publicly propagate hatred.

The British Foreign Office concluded a deal with Jordan last month to allow the extradition of terror suspects.

Britain is looking to reach similar agreements with other North African and Middle East countries, said government spokeswoman Fiona Cookson.

This could clear the way for the government to deport Abu Qatada, who was sentenced in 1998 in absentia in Jordan to 15 years in jail for terrorist activities and is accused of being the religious guide of the bombers involved in the Madrid train attacks last year.

Qatada spent the past two years in a British prison before being released in the spring.

Under international law, Britain is not allowed to deport people to their home countries if there is a chance they will be subjected to inhumane treatment or face the death penalty.

British officials said they received assurances from Jordanian authorities that those returned would be treated fairly and in accordance with international standards.

Human rights activists criticized the policy change and questioned whether Jordan would adhere to the agreement.

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