Following are excerpts from an interview with French-Tunisian Imam Hassan Chalghoumi, which aired on France 24 Arabic TV on March 12, 2013.
Interviewer: "What is the main cause of tension between the [Jewish and Muslim] communities?"
Hassan Chalghoumi: "The Arab-Israeli – or Palestinian-Israeli – conflict plays a primary role, and secondly, the conflict is exploited by some groups in order to draw young people to their ranks. Rather than attracting young people in order to teach them their religion, to teach them moderation and patriotism… Of course, everybody supports the Palestinian people – this is an obligation both for Muslims and non-Muslims – but they should not be exploited this way. Thirdly…"
Interviewer: "Who exploits this cause? Both parties?"
Hassan Chalghoumi: "Yes. There are even some Christian groups, which, I'm sad to say, have so much hatred in them, and they exploit this hatred.
"There are also political parties. The extreme left exploits the Palestinian cause, and so do others. They generate hatred and animosity between Muslims and Jews, even though most of these Jews came from Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, and are familiar with the Arab and Islamic world.
"Some came from Russia. In my view, the Muslims and Jews in this country should coexist, because their common enemy is racism and terrorism, and terrorism has no religion."
Interviewer: "France has a law against antisemitism, but you oppose legislation of a law against Islamophobia. Why?"
Hassan Chalghoumi: "Allow me to say that I am against racism and against anti-Islamic sentiment. But the term 'Islamophobia' has been exploited politically. With all due respect, there is no comparison between the two. I think that before demanding anything, Muslims must carry out their duties. True, there is growing racism, there are attacks on mosques…"
Interviewer: "How can we combat this?"
Hassan Chalghoumi: "Through the law."
Interviewer: "Like the law against antisemitism?"
Hassan Chalghoumi: "I don't like this comparison, because it has a political hue, even a hue of hostility – as if there was more [racism] of one kind than the other.
"Europe bore responsibility for what happened to the Jews here in France. I mentioned in my book how Allah bestowed grace upon the peoples of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Turkey, who saved the Jews who were persecuted by Nazism in order to kill them…"
Interviewer: "I'm sorry to interrupt, but some say that these are double-standards: preferential treatment and protection for the Jews, on the one hand, and completely different treatment of the Muslims, on the other hand, with every kind of accusation leveled against them."
Hassan Chalghoumi: "Excuse me, but I think that history is different. The consistory of Jews has existed for over 200 years, ever since Napoleon.
"My Muslim brothers, take it slow! Allah be praised, some of our people are in parliament, some are in politics, and some are in the media. We have begun our ascent. Our success will be in accordance with the success of our sons, and then we will be able to demand more rights and more protection for our religion and for ourselves."