Violent Verviers imam refused return to Brabant mosque

A radical imam, who was sent away by several mosques in the Belgian town of Verviers, has preached regularly in the Netherlands in recent years. Imam Alami abu Hamza preached in the Al Fadjr mosque in Helmond, among others. He was scheduled to preach again next month, but the Helmond mosque has let him know that he is no longer welcome after it became clear that the imam incites violence.

The imam has dozens of radical followers in Verviers. It is still unclear whether he had contact with the two terrorists that was killed in Verviers last week Thursday. According to the famous Belgian Islam expert Michael Privot, three of the imam's followers have traveled to Syria. "We know that he often goes to the Netherlands. He communicates with other people from the same ideological environment", says Privot. "He goes to the Netherlands for a few days, sometimes imams from the Netherlands come to him. People going to his mosque reported that to us. He is in an international network, it is not an isolated case."

The Moroccan Hamza is a traveling Muslim preacher. These kinds of imams often offer their services for free. They are therefore sought after by small mosques that have little money to hire a private imam, such as the Bilal Mosque in Verviers. This mosque found him so radical that they eventually sent him away. Two other houses of worship in Verviers did the same.

The Contact Committee Muslims and Government will now recommend to Dutch mosques which imams they should not hire. "We want to keep radical preachers away", said Yassin Elforkani of the CMO. They hope to achieve this by setting up a blacklist.

The Al Fajr mosque in Helmond was unaware that Hamza was controversial, according to mosque director Johan Otten. His radical ideas did not come out during an interview with him. The mosque in Helmond tries to be transparent and puts all the sermons on the internet. The sermons by Hamza in Helmond were conservative, but does not call for violence.

It is another story in one of his sermons in the Bilal Mosque in Verviers, which is also on the internet. In it the imam curses the Moroccan poet Ahmed Assin, an Islam critic. "Like the secularists thoughts, like Ahmed Assid who says that the words of prophets and ordinary people are the same. I ask God to cut off his tongue and legs."

Even apart from inciting violence, Hamza's sermons are dangerous, according to Privot. "He says things like: 'Democracy is an improper power. You must not respect it. The way is that of God. That is the only government. You should not vote, do not participate in society. Society is against us, we must withdraw from it'". According to Privot, this kind of texts have a major impact on young people.