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Head of NGO dissolved by France over allegations of extremism requests asylum from Erdoğan

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Idriss Sihamedi, the founder and head of the BarakaCity Muslim charity association, has requested protection from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for himself and his team after the NGO was dissolved by the French government in line with President Emmanuel Macron’s recent announcement to fight “Islamist separatism” in the country.

Sihamedi on Wednesday directly appealed to Erdoğan in a Turkish-language tweet citing death threats.

“I would like to request political asylum for myself and my team since I am not safe in France,” he said.


Earlier the same day, BarakaCity, one of the largest Muslim charities in France, which works with 2 million people in 26 countries around the world, announced on Twitter that it “has officially been dissolved by France.”

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin confirmed the development, regarded by Macron as “an important step” in the fight against terrorism, in a tweet that included a detailed decree agreed during a Council of Ministers meeting.

“The BarakaCity association was dissolved in the Council of Ministers this morning. As detailed in the decree I presented, it incited hatred, maintained relations within the radical Islamist movement, took pleasure in justifying terrorist acts,” Darmanin said.

“Through the personal Twitter account of its president as well as the association’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, it disseminates and invites the dissemination of hateful, discriminatory and violent ideas,” the ministers said in the decree.

The French government, which established a direct link between Islamist politics and terrorism following the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, has launched a crackdown on radical Islam.

Paty, a 47-year-old history professor, was beheaded on October 16 in the middle of the street by an 18-year-old Muslim Chechen for showing students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in a class in Paris on freedom of expression.

Earlier in October the French president vowed to fight “Islamist separatism” in the country, calling Islam “a religion that is in crisis all over the world today.”

Macron’s comments on Islam as well as his support for satirical outlets publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad have led to social media campaigns calling for the boycott of French goods in supermarkets in Arab countries and Turkey.

Erdoğan on Monday called on Turkish citizens to boycott products from France, the 10th biggest source of imports into the country and the seventh-largest market for its exports, according to Turkey’s statistical institute.

French authorities have also moved to shut down other Muslim groups, such as the CCIF, a civil society collective that works against Islamophobia. Darmanin announced that although the dissolution procedure has not yet been initiated for the CCIF, it is in preparation.

Sihamedi’s asylum request came amid diplomatic tensions between Paris and Ankara after Erdoğan last week blasted what he saw as “rising Islamophobia” in Europe.

“What problem does Macron have with Muslims and Islam? He needs mental treatment. What else can be said to a head of state who does not understand freedom of belief and who behaves in this way to millions of people living in his country who are members of a different faith?” the Turkish president said in a statement regarded by senior German officials as “a new low” and “unacceptable.”

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