Head imam expelled as ‘hate preacher’

VRT News has learnt that last October Belgian asylum and migration secretary Sammy Mahdi (Flemish Christian democrat) withdrew the residence rights of Mohamed Toujgani, the head imam at the Al Khalil Mosque in the Brussels borough of Molenbeek.  Al Khalil is Belgium’s biggest mosque.  The minister was acting on information from the security services showing that the imam posed a serious threat to national security.  Toujgani had been in Belgium for nearly 4 decades.  He has been banned from the country for ten years but is appealing.

Toujgani’s residence permit has now been withdrawn and he has left the country.  The Moroccan is seen as one of Belgium’s most influential Muslim preachers. Mr Mahdi has confirmed the news but shied away from providing any further details about the nature of the threat.

“In the past, all too often hate preachers have received space to disseminate and defend their ideas. Toujgani was probably the most influential.  We wish to dispatch a message.  Those that sow the seeds of hatred, divide our society, and threaten national security are not welcome in Belgium.  Not today and not in the future”.

The foreign national was ordered to leave the country and is the subject of a ten-year entry ban. 

The minister’s office says his time to appeal has lapsed, but this is contested by the imam’s lawyer.  Toujgani has a wife and children in Belgium.

The imam has been a contested figure for years.  Despite a long stay he spoke neither French nor Dutch.  In 2019 a film surfaced in which he called on Jews to be burned. Toujgani defended his words by saying it was an emotional reaction to the situation in the Gaza Strip.

Toujgani has served as head imam of the Molenbeek mosque for many years where he preached an extremely conservative form of Islam.

He is labelled a Muslim Brother.  Belgian state security sees the Muslim Brotherhood as an essentially peaceful organisation but one which works towards the Islamisation of society. The Brotherhood stands accused of creating a “climate of polarisation and segregation that can provide fertile ground for (violent) radicalisation”.

The security services link Toujgani, who has good ties with the Moroccan authorities, to espionage. Toujgani is the president of the League of Moroccan Imams of Belgium that is strongly influenced by the Moroccan authorities.  The league stands accused of spreading extremism and involvement in espionage.

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