French government bans four speakers from attending UOIF conference, ‘regrets’ invitation to Tariq Ramadan

France said Thursday it had banned four Muslim preachers from entering the country to attend an Islamic conference, saying their “calls for hatred and violence seriously damage republican principles”.

France also “regrets” that Swiss intellectual Tariq Ramadan has been invited to the meeting of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), a statement from Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and Interior Minister Claude Gueant said.

Akrima Sabri, Ayed Bin Abdallah al-Qarni, Safwat al-Hijazi and Abdallah Basfar are banned from entering France, while Qatari preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Mahmud al-Masri “decided not to come”, it said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy asked to ban the clerics from attending the April 6-9 conference at Le Bourget outside Paris in the wake of a series of killings by Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah that shocked France.

“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”, the statement said.

“We regret that the UOIF has also chosen to invite Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss national, whose positions and statements are against the republican spirit, which does not do any service to France’s Muslims.”

Al Arabiya, 29 March 2012