A Muslim prayer leader expelled from France to his native Algeria for defending wife-beating received a suspended prison sentence and a fine in absentia on Friday for approving attacks on women.
A local feminist group hailed the decision by the Lyon appeals court to sentence Abdelkader Bouziane to a suspended six-month jail term and a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,398) for inciting an attack that was not carried out.
“This ruling says the law protects women no matter what religion their husbands have,” said Michele Vianes, head of the group. “It is very important for all self-proclaimed imams who say the Koran is above French law.”
Bouziane, who has two wives and 16 children, became a symbol of Islamic fundamentalism in France last year when the magazine Lyon Mag quoted him as saying the Koran allowed husbands to beat unfaithful wives.
Amid a public outcry over his comments, he was summarily expelled to Algeria, where he had not lived since 1979. When an appeals court ruled his expulsion illegal, he returned to France, only to be expelled again for disturbing public order.
Another Lyon court had originally found him innocent of incitement to battery, saying he had only recounted what was contained in the Koran, the sacred scripture of Islam.
However, the prosecutor’s office and two Lyon feminist groups sued him on appeal and won. Bouziane’s lawyer said he would now seek an appeal in a higher court.
Bouziane, a prayer leader in the Lyon suburb of Venissieux, said after the uproar broke out that he was only stating what was actually in the Koran and not giving his opinion.
Law makes expulsion easier
However, the French parliament moved quickly to approve a law making it easier to expel foreign imams suspected of preaching radical views such as second-class status for women or hatred of Jews.
France, whose five-million-strong Muslim community is Europe’s largest Islamic minority, has about 1,200 imams. Most are poorly trained and many speak little or no French.
Paris has been trying to set up university courses to train imams, hoping that would promote a moderate Islam among them, but this effort has been stymied by the official separation of church and state and no such training has been arranged.