CAGE director 'banned from France' over accusations of being a 'radical Islamist'

CAGE director 'banned from France' over accusations of being a 'radical Islamist'
After criticising the French government for perceived Islamophobia, Muhammad Rabbani of CAGE was detained, arrested and then deported back to the UK after arriving in Paris last week.
3 min read
19 July, 2023
Muhammad Rabbani has been banned from France indefinitely [Getty]

The director of campaign group CAGE was detained in Paris for almost 24 hours and deported to the UK after the French government accused him of spreading conspiracy theories related to Islamophobia, according to reports.

Muhammad Rabbani was arrested and questioned by police upon arrival at Charles de Gaul airport in Paris last week, where he was due to speak to French journalists and civil society organisations as part of a three-day trip.

Rabbani was transferred for further questioning at a migrant detention centre, before returning to the airport for more questioning. He was eventually sent back to London.

London-based CAGE campaigns on behalf of communities impacted by the so-called global war on terror.

In 2020, the advocacy group successfully overturned a travel ban issued by France on Rabbani, but during his recent detention he was told that interior ministry had issued a restriction preventing him from entering the country.

In a document dated October 2022, the French government laid out its reasons for imposing the travel ban.

"Given the particularly high terrorist threat, his presence on national territory would constitute a serious threat to public order and the internal security of France," the statement said, according to The Guardian.

The travel ban accused Rabbani of being part of a "radical Islamist movement" and "spreading slanderous words" about "supposed 'Islamophobic persecution' and mass surveillance by western governments, including France". 

CAGE claims that the travel ban is a denial of Rabbani's free speech and was issued due to his criticism of French government policy. 

French authorities also accused CAGE of helping to "radicalise" Mohammed Emwazi, better known in the tabloids as 'Jihadi John', the black-clad executioner in the Islamic State group.

Authorities also cited Rabbani's conviction in the UK for refusing to give up his mobile phone passcode under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act (2000). 


Increasing Islamophobia

The ban came a month after Rabbani criticised the French government during a meeting of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Poland.

The CAGE chief lambasted France for "terrorising" its Muslim community, claiming Macron’s government had a "racist agenda" against French Muslims.

The government of Emanuel Macron has faced accusations of increasingly illiberal and discriminatory policies aimed towards France's significant Muslim minority, while there are signs of systemic prejudice against Muslims in French society.

Last year, the openly Islamophobic fascist Marine Le Pen received 41 percent of the French vote in the presidential run-off with Macron.

Most recently, a fatal police shooting of an unarmed Nahel Merzouk, a 17-year-old French Muslim of North African descent, sparked widespread riots, which occurred just days before Rabbani’s detention in Paris.

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In a statement on CAGE's website, Rabbani said that France "banned me in response to a speech I gave at last September’s OSCE conference – exposing its Systematic Obstruction Policy".

"CAGE has been monitoring the racist implementation of that policing strategy and the way it targets Muslim citizens," he said.

"The French government is clearly threatened by an NGO holding them to account," Rabbahni said. "Our interventions and critiques are echoed across the board."

He added: "Singling out a Muslim human rights defender for a ban smacks of the very same Islamophobia of which they are so offended about being accused.”

The New Arab reached out to the French Embassy in London for comment but received no reply at the time of publication.