Days after his re-election victory, President Emmanuel Macron has suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Muslim community in Pessac in southwestern France.
On Tuesday, the country’s highest administrative court, the Conseil d’Etat, threw out a government decree ordering the closure of the Bordeaux suburb’s Farouk mosque for six months.
Macron’s interior ministry issued the order earlier this year on the pretext that the mosque was spreading hatred against France and Israel and inciting terrorism.
In reality it amounted to revenge and collective punishment for the mosque president’s criticisms of Israel’s crimes against Palestinians and of Macron’s harsh anti-Muslim policies.
It was also a transparent effort to increase Macron’s appeal to racist voters in the run-up to the presidential election in which he faced off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen.
Last month, a lower court in Bordeaux threw out the order, calling it disproportionate and “a grave and manifestly illegal violation of the freedom of religion.”
Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, took the case to the Conseil d’Etat in an effort to reinstate the order.
But the Macron administration lost.
The high court in Paris confirmed that by ordering the mosque’s closure, the prefect of Gironde, the interior minister’s regional official, had “taken a police measure that constitutes a grave and manifestly illegal infringement of the freedom of worship.”In its decision, the Conseil d’Etat “rejected the appeal of the interior ministry and once again vindicated the Pessac mosque,” Sefen Guez Guez, the Muslim congregation’s lawyer said on Tuesday.
According to Guez Guez, the court found that “nothing in the case presented by the interior ministry supports an accusation against the mosque for inciting terrorism.”
Many of the ministry’s justifications for closing the mosque were ludicrous on their face.
They included a social media post by Abdourahmane Ridouane, the mosque’s president, quoting Nelson Mandela supporting Palestinian freedom.
Ridouane had also angered the government by criticizing it for banning a group that combats anti-Muslim prejudice, and calling Gaza, where Israel cages, besieges and regularly bombs a mostly refugee Palestinian population, a “concentration camp.”
Guez Guez noted that the Conseil d’Etat ruling sets a legal precedent.
That’s important because the Macron administration has increasingly resorted to closing mosques and banning groups with whose opinions it disagrees.
Amnesty International has termed the government’s 2020 order dissolving CCIF, the group fighting anti-Muslim bigotry, “a shocking move” that could have “a chilling effect on all people and organizations engaged in combating racism and discrimination in France.”
In addition to targeting Muslim communities, the staunchly pro-Israel Macron has used similar repression against supporters of Palestinian rights.
In February, he ordered the dissolution of two French Palestine solidarity groups.
The Farouk mosque’s lawyer Sefen Guez Guez praised the popular mobilization by members of the community and supporters across France. He said that their activism, along with the legal battle, meant that the mosque “had not been closed for a single minute.”
“It won at every stage, before the administrative tribunal in Bordeaux and at the Conseil d’Etat.”
This video shows mosque president Ridouane addressing supporters in Paris on the day of the hearing at the high court:“The mosque is a place of worship but it’s not only that. Every evening we distribute free meals, so it doesn’t only affect Muslims,” Janna, a 19-year-old student, told Bondy Blog earlier this month.
She was one of the many community members who made the 400-mile trek from Bordeaux to the capital to support the mosque during the hearing at the Conseil d’Etat.
That sort of charitable and community work is especially important during Ramadan, when the mosque has been hosting iftars every evening offering hot meals to anyone.
With Tuesday’s court victory against Macron’s anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian repression, the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrating the end of the fasting month will be sweeter than ever.