France says no place for Turkish group that refused to sign Emmanuel Macron's extremism charter

Milli Gorus religious association criticised for challenging French values

BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 19: French President Emmanuel Macron (R) and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) are pictured during a family picture at the Chancellery on January 19, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Leaders of nations and organizations linked to the current conflict are meeting to discuss measures towards reaching a consensus between the warring sides and ending hostilities. (Photo by Emmanuele Contini/Getty Images)
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An influential Turkish religious association founded by the mentor of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no place in France as it goes against French values, the French government said on Thursday.

Milli Gorus courted controversy in France by refusing to take part in a government charter against Islamist extremism, and over its backing of a new mosque in Strasbourg.

Tension between Paris and Ankara is running high after a series of rows between Mr Erdogan and President Emmanuel Macron,

who warned last week that Turkey might meddle in 2022 presidential elections.

"I consider that this is an association which goes against the values of the French republic, which fights against the values of the republic, against equality between women and men, against human dignity," government spokesman Gabriel Attal told BFM TV.

"Clearly it should not organise activities and exist in the republic."

Mr Attal said he was not announcing a ban of the organisation.

Milli Gorus is one of three Islamic groups in France that in January refused to sign up to an anti-extremism charter championed by Mr Macron after a spate of attacks blamed on radicals.

Based in the German city of Cologne, Milli Gorus is a pan-European movement for the Turkish diaspora founded by former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan, regarded as the father of political Islam in Turkey and Mr Erdogan's mentor.

Mr Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party has in recent years distanced itself from Milli Gorus but its conservative values remain close to those of the president.

According to its website, Milli Gorus is a "key player in the life of Muslims in France". It assists with pilgrimages, funerals, the construction of mosques and religious instruction.

In an interview with Le Point magazine published on Thursday, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin warned that the state had "nothing to negotiate" with groups that refused to sign the charter and would step up controls of their activities.

"That certain associations did not wish to sign it has revealed this shadowy world of foreign interference and extremist movements operating on our soil," he said.

French legislators are debating a draft law on cracking down on Islamist extremism.

Officials in Strasbourg, run by Green party mayor Jeanne Barseghian, last month approved a grant of €2.5 million ($2.9m) to Milli Gorus to build a new mosque, sparking an angry reaction from the government.