French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Monday said that French authorities have so far shut down 20 mosques and prayer halls they found to be preaching radical Islamic ideology since December,
“Fight against the #radicalization: since December 2015, twenty Muslim places of worship have been closed,” the Interior Ministry tweeted.
Of the country’s 2,500 mosques and prayer halls, approximately 120 of them have been suspected by French authorities of preaching radical Salafism, a fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, according to France 24.
“There is no place … in France for those who call for and incite hatred in prayer halls or in mosques About 20 mosques have been closed, and there will be others,” Cazeneuve said.
The announcement came days after French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for a temporary ban on foreign funding of French mosques. A Senate committee report on Islam in France published in July found that though the country’s mosques are primarily financed through individual donations, a significant portion of their funding also comes from overseas—specifically from Morocco, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia. The same report called banning foreign financing of mosques “absurd and impossible,” calling instead for more transparency.
Because of France’s 1905 law establishing the separation of church and state, or laïcité, the French government cannot finance religious institutions directly. Some experts say this rule has made many mosques reliant on foreign funding.
Cazeneuve also announced Monday that French authorities would be working with the French Muslim Council to launch a foundation to help finance mosques within France.
“By October, a foundation will be created to finance the cultural aspect of cultural institutions and scholarships for secular education #islam,” he said.
The mosque closures follow several high-profile attacks by Islamic extremists in the country in less than two years, including the recent murder of a Catholic priest in Normandy. France has been under a nationwide state of emergency since the ISIS attacks in Paris in 2015, which grants the state the ability to enforce tougher measures, including shutting down places of worship suspected of promoting radical views.