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February 12, 2024 Special Dispatch No. 11128

French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: 'We Will Stand Alongside Our Jewish Brethren To Show Brotherhood'; 'In Terms Of Consequences, October 7 Is Worse Than September 11'

February 12, 2024
Palestinians, North Africa | Special Dispatch No. 11128

One month after the October 7, 2023 Hamas massacre in southern Israel, French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalgoumi publicly announced that he would participate in a march against antisemitism held in Paris.

France has experienced an explosion of antisemitic speech in the wake of October 7, and Chalghoumi made a point of showing the world that Muslims should stand with their "Jewish brothers in humanity."

Following are excerpts of two interviews Chalghoumi gave to the French press, before and after a demonstration against antisemitism held November 12 in Paris at the call of parliament and senate members.


"Respect the human being, because even if he is not your brother in religion, he is still your brother in humanity."

Hassen Chalghoumi is the imam of the Drancy mosque, located near Paris, a city with a history of collaboration with the Nazi regime. Chalghoumi once recounted that this history, and the Drancy Memorial which he walked by every day on his way to the mosque, increased his awareness of the Holocaust. Born in Tunis, he became a French citizen in 2005. In 2009, he founded the "Conference of Imams," an organization whose aim is to promote peace and understanding between religions and peoples, and to develop an Islamic trend compatible with the values and laws of the French Republic.

Chalghoumi has always been outspoken about the need to stop Islamists and antisemites and prevent them from taking action. He has shown solidarity towards the Jews in the face of antisemitic assaults in France, and as a consequence has received many death threats from Islamist elements, been assaulted himself and forced to spend some time abroad, for his security and that of his family.[1]

Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: "We Will Stand Alongside Our Jewish Brethren To Show Brotherhood"

On November 8, Chalghoumi announced that he would participate in the "March for the Republic and against antisemitism" at the call of French senator Gérard Larcher and president of the French Assembly Yaël Braun-Pivet. Prior to the demonstration, Chalghoumi declared: "On [demonstration day] Sunday, we will all be Jews.[2] We will stand alongside our Jewish brethren to show brotherhood and fight racism. For me, this march is crucial and important in this period of unrest, in this period where unfortunately our Jewish compatriots are threatened, attacked. Together, we will show unity and brotherhood, regardless of our religion or political colors, to say loud and clear that hatred and antisemitism have no place in France […] In France, there are a lot of antisemitic acts. Jews have no choice but to hide and take off their yarmulkes," he noted.

In an interview the demonstration, Chaghoumi said: "It seemed normal to me to call for being Jewish on Sunday, despite the criticism. This gathering was quite simply a [French] Republic gathering, devoid of slogans or hatred. I saw there a united people who knew how to show the world that hatred - this poison which tears our society apart - whatever its form, has no place in France. This march was a great victory over all forms of divisions."[3]

The French Islamic Organizations CFCM And UOIF Did Not Take Part In The Demonstration Against Antisemitism: "They Are Irresponsible"

When asked to comment on the main French Islamic organizations not taking part in the demonstration (the French Council of Muslim Faith, CFCM declined to attend on the grounds that it failed to take Islamophobia into account), Imam Chalghoumi commented: "These people are irresponsible, and their victimized position is detrimental to our community. You have to be blind not to see that Jews have been attacked since October 7. When we defend the Jewish community, we fully defend our [Muslim] faith, because a true Muslim cannot accept the idea that another human being is being threatened and lives in fear […] This rivalry [between Jews and Muslims] is therefore particularly revolting."

The Union of French Muslim Democrats (UDMF) also declined to take part in the demonstration, claiming that it did not want to walk together with the far right and the "unconditional supporters of a colonial state [Israel]." Chalghoumi commented: "I am a man of faith, not a politician, but the fight against antisemitism should not become a pretext for controversy. This is the message that I have been tirelessly repeating for a week. […] If parties, whatever their labels, march against antisemitism, so much the better. I believe that no one should be excluded – having been rejected myself. We are entering an extremely difficult period and only clarity and courage matter. Without them, we know that history will never forgive us."

"Young People Spend A Lot Of Time On Snapchat And TikTok, Where A Lot Of Misinformation Is Being Circulated"

Asked why young people did not show up in numbers at the demonstration. Chalghoumi replied: "I do not know. […] These youths have not yet experienced war and do not comprehend the true value of peace. They spend a lot of time on Snapchat and TikTok, where a lot of misinformation is being circulated. Parents, the National Education [apparatuses], the social media and the [mainstream] media need to work to prevent them from moving towards extremes."

He further noted: "In terms of consequences, October 7 is worse than September 11. In the United States as in the United Kingdom, a large number of young people are chanting 'Death to the Jews,' Islamists are spewing Hamas slogans."

"We Must Teach French Imams That Our References In France Are Not Those Of Qatar, Hamas Or Turkey"

Chalghoumi denounced the control of foreign countries over Islamic institutions in France: "Islam in France is hostage to foreign interference. Look at the statements of certain imams close to the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF, now called "Muslims of France," or the French Council of Muslim Worship (CFCM) […] behind them we find very powerful associations, including the Millî Görüş, the equivalent of the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood, which is part of the executive council of the CFCM."

Asked whether political Islam is the enemy, Chalghoumi replied: "Before being the enemy of the Republic, political Islam is the enemy of Islam and Muslims. It is a poison that destroys society. We must not forget that their discourse made it possible to send young French people who had gone through the school of the Republic to Iraq and Syria. Today, we can perfectly support the Palestinian cause but we cannot support Hamas, these barbaric criminals who rape, kill, behead and burn. Yes, political Islam is in my opinion the number one enemy of the [French] Republic and I call on all political parties to wake up and set up a legal arsenal to fight against the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafism and their hateful speeches. […]

"We need a strong and independent Islamic body that trains imams and structures their Friday sermons. It must not be managed by Algeria, Turkey or small groups linked to other countries. We also need to train mediators in the neighborhoods to talk about antisemitism, faith and real jihad. We must tell them that our references in France are not those of Qatar, Hamas or Turkey and keep them away. Like Martin Luther King, I have my dream. I again launched an appeal a few days ago on social networks for all sermons in France and Europe to recall the extent to which the Muslim faith rejects hatred, violence and injustice. I hope I didn't preach in a desert."

 

[1] For more on Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, see MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 9741 - French Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi In Emotional Interview: Since My 2005 Call To Respect The Memory Of The Holocaust, My Family Has Lived Under Threat From Islamists; We Have Been Assaulted, Received Death Threats – I Wear A Bulletproof Vest To The Mosque, January 27, 2022;  Special Dispatch No. 9109 - French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: French People Of Algerian, Moroccan, And Tunisian Descent Should Look Beyond France's Colonialist Past And Follow The Example Of France's Relations With Germany Despite WWII History, September 26, 2021; Special Dispatch No. 9341 - French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: The Muslim Brotherhood Should Be Called The Devil's Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Bana Is A Monster; Political Islam Promotes A Vision Of Hatred, Barbarism, Savagery, May 17, 2021; Special Dispatch No. 8425 - Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, President Of The Conference Of Imams Of France: Political Islam Is The Cancer Of This Nation; The Muslim Brotherhood Should Be Outlawed, Affiliated Organizations Dissolved, November 1, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 8989 - Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, President Of Conference Of Imams Of France, Following The Murder Of Samuel Paty: Islamism Is Poison, A Disease, Should Be Banned By The French Government, October 26, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 8719 - French-Tunisian Liberal Imam Hassen Chalghoumi On Holocaust Remembrance Day: "We Remember," April 27, 2020; Special Dispatch No. 7347 - French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: 'There Is A Small Group Of People Who Do Not Believe In Diversity Of Opinions,' People Who Left France To Join ISIS Must Not Be Allowed Back – Why Should We Pay The Price?, February 21, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 6439 - French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: People Who Left France to Join ISIS Must Not Be Allowed Back – Why Should We Pay the Price?, February 7, 2018.

[2] Francetvinfo.fr, November 8, 2023.

[3] Ouest-france.fr, November 19, 2023.

 

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