Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Sarkozy Bars Radical Clerics from Muslim Conference

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Sarkozy Bars Radical Clerics from Muslim Conference

Article excerpt

The announcement was considered another political response to the terrorist killings in Toulouse this month by an Al Qaeda-inspired young Frenchman, Mohammed Merah.

France will bar certain Muslim clerics considered too radical from entering the country for a conference next month, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday.

Those barred include Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 86, an influential Egyptian living in exile in Doha, Qatar, who has become popular in the Sunni Arab world with his appearances on Al Jazeera television.

Mr. Qaradawi is also barred from visiting Britain, but the Sarkozy announcement was considered another political response to the killings in southwestern France this month by a Qaeda-inspired young Frenchman, Mohammed Merah, age 23.

Mr. Merah was killed by the police on Thursday after he had killed seven people, including Muslim French soldiers and three Jewish children, in cold blood.

"There are certain people who have been invited to this congress who are not welcome on French soil," Mr. Sarkozy said on France Info radio, singling out Mr. Qaradawi. Mr. Sarkozy said he telephoned the emir of Qatar to ask him to prevent Mr. Qaradawi, who holds a diplomatic passport and requires no visa, from traveling to France.

The Sarkozy move was criticized by the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which Mr. Qaradawi leads. Its secretary-general, Sheik Ali al-Qaradaghi, admonished France but said French sovereignty would be respected, while noting that France had played an important role in Libya and Syria.

Mr. Qaradawi was invited to a conference of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, which is considered close to the Muslim Brotherhood. French officials did not provide the names of other clerics who would not be allowed to attend.

In February of last year, Mr. Qaradawi electrified some 200,000 demonstrators at Tahrir Square in central Cairo when he urged them to "guard your revolution" against those who might steal it from them. …

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