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Outrage Among Moderate Muslims After Young Woman Dies From Exorcism

July 3, 1994

PARIS (AP) _ Muslim moderates expressed outrage Sunday at the torture death of a young Muslim woman whose brother and two clerics tried to exorcise her.

The Union of Muslim Families denounced ″Middle Age practices″ used in the exorcism, but also faulted religious and state authorities for failing to regulate clerics in a nation with 2.5 million Muslims.

Louisa Lardjoune, a 19-year-old French woman of Algerian heritage, died in a hospital Friday in the northern border town of Roubaix after being tortured during a five-hour exorcism.

On Saturday, authorities charged her brother Tahar, 44, Mohammed Kerzazi, 30, the imam or chief cleric of the Archimede mosque and Morad Selmane, 30, the mosque president, with ″torture and acts of barbary causing death.″

The brother, a devout Muslim, said he believed she was possessed by the devil. It wasn’t clear why he thought so.

Final autopsy results were pending, but investigators said Ms. Lardjoune most likely died from a combination of strangulation, flagellation and the forcing of more than a gallon of salt water down her throat.

″The devil hates salt water,″ investigators quoted Kerzazi as explaining. ″It’s the devil that killed Louisa.″

The practices constitute ″a grave deviation from Islam″ and show ″to what point the education of certain immigres is gravely deficient,″ said the Union of Muslim Families in a statement Sunday.

″Islam can and must integrate itself in France and respect French norms,″ the group said. ″Today it is up to French Muslims to take charge.″

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