France said Thursday it had banned four Muslim preachers from entering France to attend an Islamic conference, saying their “calls for hatred and violence” were a threat to public order.
President Nicolas Sarkozy had wanted to ban the high-profile Islamic clerics from attending the conference next month in the wake of a series of killings by al Qaeda inspired gunman Mohamed Merah that shocked France.
Saudi clerics Ayed Bin Abdallah al-Qarni and Abdallah Basfar, Egyptian cleric Safwat al-Hijazi and a former mufti of Jerusalem Akrama Sabri are banned from entering France, a statement said.
“These people’s positions and statements calling for hatred and violence seriously damage republican principles and, in the current context, represent a serious threat to public order,” said the statement from Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Interior Minister Claude Gueant.
The ministers also voiced “regret” that prominent Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan has been invited to the April 6-9 meeting organised by the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF).
They said his “positions and statements are against the republican spirit, which does not do any service to France’s Muslims”.
France cannot prevent Ramadan from entering as Switzerland is a member of Europe’s visa-free Schengen zone.
Influential Qatari preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Mahmud al-Masri of Egypt have decided not to come for the conference, the statement said.
Ramadan is considered one of Europe’s leading Muslim thinkers and was an advisor to former British prime minister Tony Blair.
His grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, of which his father was a senior member exiled by former Egyptian president Jamal Abdel Nasser.
He is known for promoting a modernised form of Islam and for his opposition to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. He has been barred from entering US territory since 2004.