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June 17, 2022 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 391

French Justice

June 17, 2022 | By Y. Carmon*
MEMRI Daily Brief No. 391

On December 15, 2017, Imam Mohamed Tatai[1] of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse, France delivered a Friday sermon in which he referred to a well-known hadith about the fate of the Jews on Judgement Day. The hadith is as follows.

"The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the Gharqad tree would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews."[2]

To view Imam Tatai's sermon, click here or below:

This is one of the most notorious hadiths commonly referred to by Islamist preachers and religious scholars (click below to view).[3]

For additional examples and references to the hadith, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 7587, Antisemitic Hadith: 'The Prophecy Of The Rock And The Tree' – MEMRI Clips And Reports.

This bizarre-sounding hadith actually conveys a serious and profound message about the Jews – that they are so fundamentally evil and intended for destruction that even nature itself turns against them and participates in the process of their annihilation.

Imam Tatai Indicted – And Acquitted

Following MEMRI's release of its translation[4] of Imam Tatai's sermon, he was indicted on charges of "public provocation, through speech, to hatred or violence because of origin, ethnicity, nation, race, or religion." The trial took place a full two years later at the Toulouse Criminal Court on June 29, 2021.[5]

Imam Tatai was found not guilty on all charges; the court said in its judgment: "It is not the magistrate's role to assess the legitimacy of a religious text, which would be contrary, in particular, to the principles of religious freedom and secularism."[6] That is, as long as the imam uses religious quotes or contexts for his incitement, he is not subject to the legal jurisdiction of the court.

This is apparently what passes for French justice.


The Le Canard Enchaine report; the text quoted above is in red.

Le Monde Attempts To Support Imam Tatai By Questioning The Accuracy Of MEMRI's Translation, Hinting At "Manipulation"

On June 30, 2018, one day after Imam Tatai was indicted, the liberal leading French daily Le Monde rallied to his defense, stating: "Did Mohamed Tatai, the imam of the brand-new Great Mosque in Toulouse, make antisemitic remarks in a video? This is what the MEMRI Institute – a observatory of the media of the Middle East – claims on its website, where it shared a YouTube video which it says dates from December 2017... Is this a bad translation, a manipulation?"[7]


The Le Monde article, June 30, 2018.

Imam Tatai even had additional unexpected support from the president of the Toulouse chapter of the French Jewish umbrella organization CRIF, Franck Touboul. Touboul was quoted in the Le Monde article as having said: "No use rushing to throw to the dogs, and to public opinion, a longtime Toulouse imam."[8]

However, the same day, renowned French-Algerian author and intellectual Mohamed Sifaoui tweeted the entire sermon featured in the MEMRI video and wrote: "This is the entire clip [from the Toulouse Mosque's YouTube channel] where Imam Mohamed Tatai is delivering an antisemitic sermon. It lasts 30 minutes. Anyone who wishes to have it translated can do so. As far as I am concerned, I certify that @ memrifr's translation is absolutely correct."


Sifaoui's June 30, 2018 tweet.

Months later, on December 21, 2018, Sifaoui tweeted: "Remember, I kept talking about it all summer long. Some have claimed, despite the video [evidence], that he [Tatai] never made antisemitic remarks. The imam of the Toulouse mosque, Mohamed Tatai, has been indicted 'for incitement to racial hatred.'"[9]


Sifaoui's December 21, 2018 tweet.

Imam Tatai's Retrial

The week after Imam Tatai was acquitted, the Toulouse prosecutor's office appealed the acquittal. A retrial began May 30, 2022, almost a year after the acquittal.

French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, who is a prominent moderate Islamic leader and the imam of the Drancy mosque near Paris, testified at the retrial, saying: "I have seen the video of the sermon about 30 times. These are serious words, very dangerous. If this speech is not condemned, it will be a frightening thing. It is a speech that brings hatred, fear to our youth. It is an unjustifiable speech that can manipulate, kill. This was the case with [Samuel] Paty."[10] (In October 2020, Samuel Paty, a French high school teacher, was beheaded by an 18-year-old Muslim refugee from Chechnya for showing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad during a class about freedom of speech.[11])


Imam Chalghoumi at MEMRI's sixth annual Capitol Hill event of the Lantos Archives on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial, April 14, 2015. (See Memri.org/reports/memri-hosts-sixth-annual-capitol-hill-event-lantos-archives-antisemitism-and-holocaust)

At the retrial, Imam Tatai was found guilty of "incitement to violence of racial hatred." Deliberations about the requested six-month suspended prison sentence and a 10,000 Euro fine, and the final sentencing, are set to take place on August 31, 2022 – almost five years after he delivered his antisemitic sermon.[12]

The Guardian: "France Is The Only Country In Europe Where Jews Are Periodically Murdered For Being Jewish"

Since Imam Tatai's 2017 sermon, several helpless elderly Jews have been murdered by Muslims, yet the French authorities have handled these cases with apprehension similar to that with which they approached the Tatai case – even though they involved violent murders, and not just an incitement to hatred. The fact that the perpetrators of this violence against Jews are of a certain demographic – immigrant and Muslim – has led to a pattern of apparent legal "delicacy" in the pursuit of justice, with authorities repeatedly downplaying or ignoring the antisemitic nature of the attacks.

Jews have been victims of such murders in France years before Tatai's sermon.

According to a November 2018 report in The Guardian, "France is the only country in Europe where Jews are periodically murdered for being Jewish." Naming "no fewer than 12 Jews who have been killed in France in six separate incidents since 2003," it added: "In each of these cases, at least one of the perpetrators was from what the French call minorités visibles, or 'visible minorities,' which typically refers to those of North African or West African descent; in most cases, the perpetrators have been linked with some form of extremist Islam. In nearly every case, the victims have been either identifiably Jewish or personal acquaintances of the perpetrator. Almost all perpetrators and victims have been lower middle-class, residing in the same diverse neighbourhoods, the same streets, or even the same buildings.'"[13]

The victims named in The Guardian article were: Sébastien Selam, murdered by Adel Amastaibou; Ilan Halimi, murdered by a gang led by Youssouf Fofana; Jonathan Sandler, Gabriel Sandler, Aryeh Sandler, and Myriam Monsonégo, murdered by jihadi Mohammed Merah in the 2012 Toulouse and Montauban jihadi attacks; Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham, François-Michel Saada, and Yoav Hattab, murdered by pro-ISIS jihadi Amedy Coulibaly in the January 2015 Hyper Cacher attack; Lucie Attal, aka Sarah Halimi, murdered by Kobili Traoré; and Mireille Knoll, murdered by Yacine Mihoub.[14]

Sebastien Selam – Murdered By Adel Abastaibou

In 2003, in Paris, the 23-year-old Jewish disc jockey Sebastien Selam was brutally murdered by his childhood friend Adel Amastaibou. The killer was declared insane, did not stand trial, and was allowed out on weekends.[15] Fifteen years after the murder and almost a decade since the trial, French President Macron in 2018 admitted what had been painfully obvious from the beginning 0 – that this was an antisemitic murder.[16] 

Ilan Halimi – Held for Ransom and Murdered By Immigrant Criminal Gang Led By Youssouf Fofana

In 2006, 23-year-old Ilan Halimi was abducted, tortured, and murdered by a gang of immigrant criminals from the Paris suburbs led by Youssouf Fofana.[17] They had targeted their victim merely because he was Jewish – a fact that French authorities initially refused to recognize. His captors told his family to get ransom money "from your synagogue."[18]

Sarah Halimi – Murdered By Kobili Traoré

In the early morning of April 4, 2017, in Paris, Sarah Halimi (no relation to Ilan Halimi), a 65-year-old Jewish retired doctor and kindergarten director, was beaten and thrown to her death from her third-floor balcony by her Muslim neighbor, 27-year-old Kobili Traoré, who broke into her apartment while she slept. He chanted Quran verses and shouted "Allahu Akbar" as he beat her for 20 to 30 minutes. Traoré was deemed not criminally responsibility on the grounds that his mind was affected by his regular consumption of cannabis.[19] It took 10 months and an outcry from Jewish organizations, including demonstrations across France as well as in Rome, Tel Aviv, London, Los Angeles, Miami and New York, for French authorities to accept that there had been an element of antisemitism in her murder.[20] Her family alleged that the antisemitic nature of the crime had been hushed up for political reasons.[21]

It was only through the April 2021 intervention of French President Emmanuel Macron that the law under which Halimi's – and Selam's – murderers evaded responsibility and punishment was changed, in December 2021. In January 2022, three French MPs heading up an investigation into the alleged mishandling of the case by the police and judicial system found that Traore had been let out on day release several times from the psychiatric hospital where he had been ordered to stay since committing the murder, and that he could soon be freed for good.[22] The Washington Post called Sarah Halimi's murder similar to the murder of Ilan Halimi, because in both cases French authorities refused to acknowledge the antisemitic nature of the murder or to investigate them as ethnically and ideologically motivated terrorism.[23] About Sarah Halimi's murder, French journalist and public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy said, "It's always the same story in France. Antisemitism is not supposed to exist, especially among minority communities."[24]

Mirielle Knoll – Murdered By Yacine Mihoub

On March 23, 2018, also in Paris, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Jewish Holocaust survivor, was stabbed 11 times and killed, and her body was then set on fire, by 29-year-old Yacine Mihoub, the grandson of her next-door neighbor. According to reports, his attack was fueled by a "context of antisemitism" and "prejudices" about the purported wealth of Jewish people, leading him to believe that Knoll had "hidden treasures" in her home.[25] In November 2021, over three years after Knoll's murder, Mihoub was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole for 22 years.[26]

René  Hadjaj – Murdered By Rachid Kheniche

In Lyon, on May 17, 2022, René Hadjadj, an 89-year-old Jewish man, was thrown out of the window of his 17th-floor apartment by his neighbor, 51-year-old Rachid Kheniche. Investigators did not initially charge Kheniche with a racist crime.[27] However, the Lyon prosecutor has "asked judges to consider" the possibility that the crime was committed because of Hadjadj's "ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion."[28]

Once again, the same official reluctance, the same disturbing and despicable hesitation to call antisemitic violence, even outright antisemitic murder, what it is. This is, again, French justice.

 

* Yigal Carmon is President of MEMRI.

 

[1] Tatai is also spelled Tataiat.

[2] Sahih Muslim – 2922, Hadithinenglish.blogspot.com/2021/05/hadith-stone-or-tree-would-say-muslim.html. The exact botanical identity of the gharqad tree referred to in the hadith is not known.

[3] Some modern Islamic scholars have attempted to place the hadith in a very different context than that used by extremists, but this revisionism seems to be very much the minority view.[3] (Abuaminaelias.com/hadith-of-gharqad-tree) The antisemitic interpretation is as toxic as it is ubiquitous.

[4] In 2017, MEMRI launched a project to monitor and translate sermons by imams in the West. To date, this Sermons by Imams in the West project has published 322 sermons by imams in the U.S, Canada, Europe, and Australia. In several cases in Europe, the MEMRI translations of the sermons led to legal action being taken against the imams.

[5] France3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/haute-garonne/toulouse/toulouse-l-imam-de-la-mosquee-d-empalot-mohamed-tataiat-devant-la-justice-pour-antisemitisme-2158402.html, June 29, 2021.

[6] Le Canard Enchaîné, September 22, 2021.

[7] Lemonde.fr/societe/article/2018/06/30/a-toulouse-ouverture-d-une-enquete-apres-le-preche-d-un-imam_5323602_3224.html, June 30, 2018.

[8] It is noteworthy that a few months later, Le Monde stopped questioning the validity of MEMRI’s translation and began taking Imam Tatai’s case more seriously.

[9] Twitter.com/Sifaoui/status/1076196484981420033, December 21, 2018.

[10] France3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/haute-garonne/toulouse/toulouse-6-mois-d-emprisonnement-avec-sursis-et-une-amende-de-10-000-euros-requis-contre-l-imam-mohamed-tataiat-juge-en-appel-2551764.html, May 30, 2022.

[11] France24.com/en/france/20211015-the-violence-shook-me-profoundly-teachers-students-remember-samuel-paty-s-murder, October 15, 2021.

[12] Ouest-france.fr/region-occitanie/toulouse-31000/six-mois-de-prison-avec-sursis-requis-contre-un-imam-de-toulouse-juge-pour-incitation-a-la-haine-7793352, May 31, 2022.

[13] Theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/27/how-the-murders-of-two-elderly-jewish-women-shook-france-antisemitism-mireille-knoll-sarah-halimi, November 27 2018.

[14] Theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/27/how-the-murders-of-two-elderly-jewish-women-shook-france-antisemitism-mireille-knoll-sarah-halimi, November 27 2018.

[15] Jpost.com/magazine/features/two-sons-of-france-166349, January 24, 2010.

[16] Jewishnews.co.uk/president-macron-says-2003-slaying-of-french-jew-was-anti-semitic, May 29, 2018.

[17] France24.com/en/20090710-barbarians-gang-leader-gets-life-murder-case-, July 12, 2009.

[18] Washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-france-the-murder-of-a-jewish-woman-ignites-a-debate-over-terrorism/2017/07/23/4c79fe28-6bb9-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html, July 23, 2017.

[19] Bbc.com/news/world-europe-56929040, May 3, 2021; Theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/25/protest-in-france-as-man-accused-of-killing-jewish-woman-avoids-trial, April 25, 2021.

[20] Theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/25/protest-in-france-as-man-accused-of-killing-jewish-woman-avoids-trial, April 25, 2021.

[21] Thetimes.co.uk/article/antisemitic-killing-hushed-up-for-election-campaigns-zzbfg8x3k, May 23, 2017.

[22] Thejc.com/news/world/sarah-halimi's-killer-is-let-out-on-day-release-and-could-soon-be-freed-2Rg4dSrv8wn8lCwM9x1KrH, January 27, 2022.

[23] Nytimes.com/2006/03/05/world/europe/torture-and-death-of-jew-deepen-fears-in-france.html, March 5, 2006; Washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-france-the-murder-of-a-jewish-woman-ignites-a-debate-over-terrorism/2017/07/23/4c79fe28-6bb9-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html , July 23, 2017.

[24] Washingtonpost.com/world/europe/in-france-the-murder-of-a-jewish-woman-ignites-a-debate-over-terrorism/2017/07/23/4c79fe28-6bb9-11e7-abbc-a53480672286_story.html, July 23, 2017.

[25] Bbc.com/news/world-europe-59239981, November 10, 2021; Theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/10/life-sentence-for-murderer-of-french-holocaust-survivor-mireille-knoll, November 1, 2021.

[26] Theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/10/life-sentence-for-murderer-of-french-holocaust-survivor-mireille-knoll, November 10, 2021.

[27] Theguardian.com/world/2022/may/27/french-prosecutor-says-antisemitism-suspected-in-of-elderly-man, May 27, 2022; Youtube.com/watch?v=7nl7JULVd8Q, May 25, 2022.

[28] Theguardian.com/world/2022/may/27/french-prosecutor-says-antisemitism-suspected-in-of-elderly-man, May 27, 2022; Youtube.com/watch?v=7nl7JULVd8Q, May 25, 2022.

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