France takes 12 hours to deport imam, a resident of 38 years, for “satanic” flag remark

National flag of France
The radical imam attacked tricolour flags, of which the French flag is one. Photo courtesy: Pixabay/jackmac34

A Tunisian imam named Mahjoub Mahjoubi was deported from France within hours of a viral video surfacing in which he called tricolour flags “satanic”. While the Islamic cleric, a resident of France for 38 years, did not name the country specifically, the blue-white-red national flag of France would have also been categorised as “satanic” by the radical preacher.

The government not only took offence, but also took swift action over the “unacceptable remarks” — the imam was arrested immediately after the video went viral, and then was expelled from France in just 12 hours.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that immigration reforms in France had enabled the rapid action. However, the cleric planned to appeal against the deportation and denied saying anything wrong. He described his comment about tricolour flags as “a slip of tongue”.

Mahjoubi was the imam of the Ettaouba mosque in Bagnols-sur-Cèze, a small city in the south of France. In the video that got him arrested and deported, he described a “tricolour flag” as “satanic” and said that such a flag had “no value with Allah”.

Since France is among the many European nations that have a tricolour flag, the cleric’s “satanic” remark has been interpreted as an attack on the French flag, too — and by extension, the French nation.

The imam later apologised and said that he had meant no disrespect. But the government was not placated. Darmanin asked for an expulsion order and got it. Mahjoubi had to fly back to Tunisia.

On February 23, the interior minister wrote on the social network X: “The radical ‘Imam’ Mahjoub Mahjoubi has just been expelled from the national territory, less than 12 hours after his arrest.

“This is the demonstration that the immigration law, without which such a rapid expulsion would not have been possible, makes France stronger. We won’t let anything go.”

BBC reported, quoting French media on the expulsion order, that the imam was found to have promoted a “retrograde, intolerant, and violent image of Islam, likely to encourage behaviour contrary to the values of the Republic [of France]”.

The expulsion order also cited the imam’s teachings that promoted discrimination against women, “tensions with the Jewish community” and “jihadist radicalisation”.