French government shuts down major Muslim charity
French authorities on Tuesday dissolved a leading Muslim charity in the latest development in a highly controversial government campaign targeting "Islamic extremism" in the country.
BarakaCity, which works with 2 million people in 26 countries across the world, announced on its official Twitter account that it "has officially been dissolved by France".
The charity said that it was "doing [its] utmost" to protect beneficiaries and asked for political asylum "in a country which guarantees the integrity of Muslims".
BarakaCity's founder, Idriss Sihamedi, directly appealed to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a Turkish-language tweet, saying "I would like to request political asylum for myself and my team, since I am not safe in France".
The Turkish leader has strongly condemned statements made by French leaders in the wake of the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered by an 18-year-old Chechen student on 16 October after he showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad previously published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin also announced BarakaCity’s dissolution on Twitter, claiming that it had "incited hatred, maintained relations within the radical Islamist movement, and took pleasure in justifying terrorist acts".
The charity responded to the minister by saying, "The decree is a web of lies, and many of these claims have already been refuted by your intelligence agencies which proceeded to dismiss them!"
Darmanin recently linked the sale of halal meat in separate aisles in French supermarkets to "Muslim separatism".
Two weeks ago, Sihamedi was arrested and allegedly beaten by French anti-terrorism police after he criticised Zineb El-Rhazoui, a Moroccan-French journalist and well-known critic of Islam working for Charlie Hebdo.
The French government initially claimed that Sihamedi was harassing El-Razoui, but later released him.
France has also moved to shut down other Muslim groups, such as the CCIF, a civil society collective that works against Islamophobia.
Prior to the murder of Paty, French authorities passed a controversial "anti-separatism" law targeting Muslims and shut down dozens of mosques and Islamic schools.
On Tuesday, the American Muslim civil rights and advocacy group CAIR warned US Muslims not to travel to France due to what it called the French government's "hypocritical and dangerous campaign of Islamophobic bigotry targeting French Muslims, mosques and Islamic organizations".
Last week, two Muslim women were stabbed in Paris in an Islamophobic attack. A campaign to boycott French goods after the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet were displayed on French government buildings has gained ground in recent weeks.