A Moroccan imam who called for the “burning of Jews” in a 2009 video was banned from Belgium in October as a national security threat, the country’s Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi confirmed.
“This man was probably the most influential preacher in Belgium,” Mahdi told a session of Belgian parliament.
Mohamed Toujgani preached until last year in the Brussels neighbourhood of Molenbeek at the Al-Khalil mosque, one of the largest places of worship for Muslims in Belgium. His residence permit was withdrawn on October 12.
Toujgani “has been controversial for some time. In 2009, he again called for the burning of Jews,” the statement added.
The video resurfaced in 2019, according to Flemish public broadcaster VRT, noting that Toujgani had apologised for his remarks, citing “a slip” related to what he called “a war” waged by Israel against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
Toujgani, who is head of the League of Moroccan Imams in Belgium, was under surveillance by Belgium’s domestic intelligence agency.
Mahdi said he decided on the 10-year ban “on the basis of information from the security services” and “because of signs of a serious danger to national security.”
“We will not tolerate those who divide and threaten our national security,” he said.
Mahdi told MPs that Toujgani was no longer in Belgium. According to VRT, Toujgani intends to contest his expulsion.
The imam, who has been in Belgium for 40 years, has a wife and children living in the country, according to VRT.
The Al-Khalil mosque, located Molenbeek, is run by the Islamic Mutual Aid League (LEI), which describes itself as “the largest Muslim institution in Belgium.” It has training centers and an Arabic language school for 500 children and teenagers.