France has begun widespread crackdown on radical Islam.
Interior minister Gerald Darmanin on Thursday said French authorities have launched investigations into dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of fomenting Islamist extremism.
He added those found to be encouraging “separatism” would be closed.
Paris launched the unprecedented move after several Islamist attacks rocked the nation, including the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty for showing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed to his students during a lesson on freedom of expression.
Darmanin said 76 mosques of over 2,600 Muslim places of worship had been flagged as possible threat to the country’s Republic values and its security.
If any of them were found to be promoting extremism, they would be closed down immediately, the minister told RTL radio.
The rightwing minister said: “There are in some concentrated areas places of worship which are clearly anti-Republican, (where) imams are followed by the intelligence services and where the discourse runs counter to our values.”
Authorities will also investigate their source of financing and the background of imams deemed suspicious and also look for evidence, among other things, of Koranic schools for young children, Reuters news agency reports.
Though he did not reveal which places of worship will be investigated, in a note sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in Paris and 60 others around the European country.
He added the fact that only 76 of 2,600 Muslim places of worship were under the scanner showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalisation”.
The development comes a week before the unveiling of a new law to combat such extremism.
President Emmanuel Macron has warned of the growing menace of “Islamist separatism” and its challenge to the unity of the secular French republic. In France, state secularism or laïcité is central to the national identity.