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July 19, 2018 No.
638

Support MEMRI's Work Fighting Extremism: Exposure Of Another Antisemitic Sermon By Imam Who Is An Interfaith Leader – This Time In France – Leads To Denunciation, Legal Measures; Muslim Leaders Support Him, But Then 'Strongly Condemn' Him

On June 28, 2018, MEMRI released its translated clip of a sermon delivered in Arabic by Mohamed Tatai, then-imam of the Mosquée Ennour in Toulouse, France and currently leading imam at the newly inaugurated Grand Mosque of Toulouse, as well as president, since 2005, of the Circle for Civil Dialogue (Cercle du Dialogue Civilisationnel), a nonprofit aiming to "facilitate dialogue between citizens on a social-cultural level."[1] Tatai was also reportedly close to the Algerian Sunni Islamist political party Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).[2]

In his sermon, which he gave on December 15, 2017,[3] Tatai recounted the well-known hadith about what will happen in the battle the Muslims and the Jews at the end of time: "[The Prophet Muhammad] told us of the final and decisive battle: The Day of Judgment will only come when the Muslims will fight the Jews. The Jews will hide behind the stones and the trees, and the stones and the trees will say: 'Oh Muslim, Oh servant of Allah, a Jew is hiding behind me, come and kill him,'except for the Gharqad tree, which is 'one of the trees of the Jews.'"

He then stated that Israel would soon come to an end: "The Israeli prime minister... said that he was afraid that Israel would not live longer than 76 years – as is written in the prophecies of [the Jews]. Therefore, when their president died two years ago, and people came to pay their last respects, one of their well-known journalists said: 'People did not come today to the funeral of Peres, but to the funeral of Israel.'" The sermon was posted on the YouTube channel of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse on January 30, 2018.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:

This hadith, which refers to  the End of Days when the Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them, is regularly cited in antisemitic sermons and statements; MEMRI research has identified it many times. Its use in an antisemitic sermon in Toulouse, France, and its reference to killing  Jews, is of particular concern in light of the growing Muslim antisemitism throughout France and the 2012 murder of schoolchildren and a teacher at a Jewish day school in Toulouse by jihadi Muhammad Merah.

At the June 23, 2018 inauguration[4] of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse, Tatai also underlined that the new mosque would "instill the values of peace" as a "bulwark against extremism."[5] He also said, "The Grand Mosque doesn't only benefit the Muslim community, it benefits all the people of Toulouse in terms of culture... The mosque is proof of the respect and tolerance among all people of Toulouse."[6]

The MEMRI TV clip was extensively covered by media in France and internationally, and numerous French politicians, public figures, and groups called for action to be taken against Tatai. French prosecutors launched an investigation into him for "possible incitement to hatred."[7]  

According to media reports, Tatai said that his remarks were taken out of context and did not contain incitement to violence against Jews. He added: "This translation [i.e. by MEMRI] is somewhat modified as it was taken out of context [...] This message warns us that we shouldn't commit these acts if we want to avoid the last Judgment."[8]

Subsequently, on July 5, 2018, a video was posted on the YouTube channel of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse in which  Imam Tatai clarified that in his statements in his sermon about the end of Israel he had been talking about the end of the state of Israel, not the end of Judaism as a religion or of the Jews as a people. He did not, however, mention his use of the hadith. MEMRI released a translation of this clip as well.

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below.

Additionally, in a 2015 sermon, Tatai discussed 9/11 and the West (see MEMRI TV Clip No. 6650, Toulouse Imam Mohamed Tatai On 9/11: "The Entire World Knows That There Were Fabrications" – Archival, July 3, 2015). In it, he stated: "Along came the events of 9/11... We know, and the entire world knows, that there were fabrications... They want to discredit the followers [of Islam], in order to drive people away from our religion and from us. They drive people away from Islam and from the Muslims."

This MEMRI TV clip exposing antisemitic statements by a prominent imam who is also a leader in interfaith efforts is another example, in this case from France, from our project that identifies and exposes such imams  in North America and across the West. Over the past two years, MEMRI translations of antisemitic and hateful statements by imams in the U.S., Canada, Spain, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Australia, and other countries have led to lawsuits and other legal action against them on charges such as incitement to hatred and violence, connection to terrorism, and more. MEMRI is also seeking out and promoting imams and others speaking out against hatred and violence.

SUPPORT MEMRI'S WORK TRANSLATING AND EXPOSING IMAMS OF HATRED

MEMRI research and translation efforts are an increasingly costly endeavor, and as a nonprofit organization our efforts are made possible only by readers like you. Producing MEMRI TV clips demands extensive and advanced technology and human expertise – from monitoring, recording, and reviewing raw programming to translating, captioning, and uploading clips. Please help us today to continue this work, with your tax-deductible donation to our Summer Campaign.

The Aftermath Of MEMRI's Translation Of Imam Tatai's Sermon

The MEMRI TV clip translating Imam Tatai's December 15, 2017 sermon in Toulouse was widely covered by French media, and led to denunciation, legal complaints, and action by public figures, French Jewish groups, and authorities. It also led to responses by Tatai, and defense of him by French and Algerian Muslim leaders – and then a reversal to "strong condemnation."

Below is a review of the events that followed the release of the MEMRI TV clip, as well other sermons by Imam Tatai translated by MEMRI.

Legal Action By Authorities, Lawsuits By French Jewish Groups

Following the release of the clip and the media coverage, prosecutors in Toulouse launched an investigation into Tatai for "possible incitement to hatred"[9] According to reports, the Toulouse Prosecutor's Office said, "The Prefect of Haute-Garonne region instructed the Toulouse Prosecutor's office to investigate whether this constitutes hatred in speeches diffused via video."[10] The Justice Ministry said that it needed a month to issue its own translation of the entire original video.[11] On July 17, it was reported that the Toulouse public prosecutor's office had received a certified translation of Tatai's sermon, and that it would give its decision on the matter in the first half of August.[12]

The leading French Jewish organization CRIF (The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions) said on June 29 that it "condemns with utmost firmness calls of hatred by the Imam of Toulouse Mohamed Tatai. He calls for the elimination of the Jewish people and proclaims the end of Israel."[13]


Twitter.com/Le_CRIF/status/1012626313285431296 , June 29, 2018.

The Union of Jewish Students of France (UEJF) said in a statement: "For the UEJF, this call to murder Jews is particularly worrying, especially as it was issued in Toulouse, the very city where Mohamed Merah killed Jews at the Ozar Hatorah school on March 19, 2012. The UEJF is filing a complaint on account of incitement to racial hatred against Mohamed Tatai, and calls on the Public Prosecutor's Office to open an investigation, and on the Ministry of Interior Affairs to close down the mosque."[14]

Additionally, B'nai B'rith France President Philippe Meyer, on June 27, posted a link to the MEMRI TV clip and added that he was "outraged by the anti-Semitic rhetoric and prophecies on Israel's demise," that such rhetoric is no foundation for "constructing Islam in France," and that "such incitement to hate must be punished." He added that Tatai's talk of tolerance was "unacceptable doublespeak."[15]

Imam Tatai Responds To Criticism: "Sorry Because The Translation Was Not Correct"; "The Objectivity Of The MEMRI Site... Is Sometimes Questioned"; Hadith In Sermon Was "Taken Out Of Context," "Falsified" By Those Who "Fish In Murky Waters"

July 4: "I Am Really... Sorry, Because The Translation Was Not Correct"

In a July 4 video interview with France 3 Midi-Pyrenees, Imam Tatai said: "I am really worried [someone off camera mutters to him to say 'sorry' instead] sorry, because the translation was not correct. Unfortunately this is not our aim. Neither is it the real meaning of the hadith. I understand the worry of the Jewish family in Toulouse or in France. I am truly sorry. If you would see our history with the work, friends, and former [Toulouse] rabbis Mr Haïk and M. Matusuf, today and always, [you would know that] our discourse seeks fraternity and peace."[16]

July 5: "The Objectivity Of The MEMRI Site... Is Sometimes Questioned In The Press"

In an interview published July 5 by La Dépêche, Tatai said: "In the part of the sermon quoted by MEMRI, the Prophet warns the faithful against a conflict against the Jews, which is precisely one heralding sign of the Apocalypse. As in other hadiths that announce the end of the world, what is described there is precisely what has to be avoided... The objectivity of the MEMRI site – created by a former member of the Israeli secret services – is sometimes questioned in the press. The people who run this site cannot monitor the safety of communities in France better than the French. This accusation calls into question the capacity of the public security apparatuses that listen to, and watch, my sermons... When MEMRI mentions [Toulouse attacker Muhammad] Merah or Salafism, they do not know that we have nothing to do with these people. What does a Washington-based site understand about the situation in Toulouse?..."[17] The interview was also posted on the website of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse.[18]

July 6: Grand Mosque Of Toulouse: "Our Imam Bravely Renews With The Jewish Community!" Hadith In December 2017 Sermon Was "Taken Out Of Context," "Falsified" By People Who "Fish In Murky Waters"

On July 10, the Grand Mosque of Toulouse YouTube channel, in a post titled "Our Imam Bravely Renews With The Jewish Community!"[19] uploaded a clip of a Friday, July 6 sermon by Tatai in which he said that the hadith in his December 2017 sermon had been "taken out of context" and "falsified" by people who "fish in murky waters who are harming Islam and Judaism, are harming Muslims and Jews" and who "peddle in the blood and honor of others." The Prophet Muhammad had, in fact, he said, been referring to the "worst creatures of Allah at the end of times," he said, as they would be the only ones who remained on earth. The clip was also posted at the top of the mosque's website. The clip begins with the introduction: "Our sheikh Mohamed Tatai, the Imam of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse, courageously mends what the falsifiers have tried to corrupt: public security."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below.


"Our imam bravely renews with the Jewish community!" The clip at the top of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse website (grande-mosquee-toulouse.fr, accessed July 16, 2018)

Reactions By French Government And Public Figures

On July 5, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said: "... The evil wind of ordinary anti-Semitism but also the evil wind carried by the hate speeches of radical Islamism. I hope that all of France will confront it because in the face of this threatening danger, there can be no prevarication. This is why I naturally condemn the words of the Imam of the great mosque of Empalot, Toulouse, since they cannot have a place in our Republic. Indeed it is these bad winds that are causing... the resurgence of anti-Semitic acts."[20]

French Algerian public figure Mohamed Sifaoui, founder and director of the French Contre Terrorisme magazine and one of the first to warn, decades ago, of the Islamist threat, tweeted on June 30: "Here is the full video in which Mohamed Tatai is giving an antisemitic sermon. It lasts 30 minutes. Anyone can have it translated. I confirm for my part that the original version translated by Memri.fr is absolutely correct." He also suggested that Tatai should not be allowed to preach.[21]

On June 29, National Assembly of France member Eric Ciotti tweeted a link to the MEMRI TV clip and wrote that "the call to murder by the imam of the mosque of Toulouse is unspeakable" and called for the closure of the mosque. 


Left: Twitter.com/Sifaoui/status/1013112655958216704, June 30, 2018. Right: Twitter.com/ECiotti/status/1012671364799631361, June 29, 2018

Tatai "Apologizes... For Decontextualized Interpretation" Of His Remarks; Great Mosque Of Paris Rector Clears Him Of Wrongdoing; Algerian Muslim Leaders, Government Minister Express Support; French National Office of Vigilance Against Antisemitism (BNVCA) Files Complaint Against Rector – Who Subsequently Backtracks, "Strongly Condemns" Tatai's Statements

July 2: Great Mosque Of Paris: Imam Tatai "Apologizes" To Jewish Community "For The Decontextualized Interpretation Of His Remarks"; We "Want Imam Tatai To Continue His Mission Of Peace"

Following the release of the MEMRI TV clip and the ensuing media coverage, the Great Mosque of Paris issued a press release stating that Tatai had been summoned by its rector, Dalil Boubakeur, to hear his explanation, in the presence of his council of imams, "following the controversy provoked by a video disseminated on YouTube in which, in December 2017, it evokes a hadith in a sermon devoted to the eschatology of the Final Days and to the suffering of the Jewish people."

The press release continued: "Imam Mohammed Tatai strongly defends his good intentions. He apologizes deeply to his friends from the Jewish community of Toulouse and France for the decontextualized interpretation of his remarks. He reiterates that he has always called in his sermons for respect for all religious communities, in particular the Jewish community, which he evokes constantly in favorable terms... Also, Imam Mohammed Tatai undertakes, as in the past, to insist on coexistence and on the necessary inter-religious understanding. Additionally, because of his exemplary commitment to Toulouse and the region in favor of coexistence, the Mosque of Paris wants Imam Tatai to continue his mission of peace, dialogue and serenity. The Mosque of Paris takes this opportunity to invite all the imams of France to observe strict impartiality in their remarks... especially with regard to Religions of the Book [i.e. Christians and Jews] in scrupulous respect for all beliefs.

"Rector Dalil BOUBAKEUR

"President of the National Federation of the Great Mosque of Paris – FGMP"[22]


The press release.

  
The press release on the Grand Mosque of Paris website (now removed), as tweeted by it (Twitter.com/mosqueedeparis/status/1013749343936008193 ) (July 2, 2018).

The Grand Mosque of Toulouse also posted the press release on its website.[23]


Grande-mosquee-toulouse.fr, accessed July 13, 2018.

July 3 And 7: Algerian Media, Government Official Support The "Pure" Tatai – Who Was "Exonerated Of The Allegations" By The Great Mosque Of Paris, "And We In Algeria Adopt And Defend This Position"

On July 3, the Algerian Ennahar TV channel reported that the Great Mosque of Paris had exonerated Tatai of incitement to hatred, reiterating the argument that the hadith had been "taken out of context.[24] Days later, at a July 7 press conference, Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Mohamed Issa defended Tatai. Issa accused the "extremist media" of affronting Islam and said that Imam Tatai, who is of Algerian origin, was "too pure to make the mistake of violating the laws of the country in which he is active." He added: "The response I got from the head of the Paris mosque – or rather, from the religious council of the Paris mosque, which met with Sheikh Tatai – is that Sheikh Tatai was exonerated from the allegations, and we in Algeria adopt and defend this position. We hope that the extremist media ceases to affront Islam." It should be noted that Algeria and Kuwait had helped him financially to purchase land for the Grand Mosque of Toulouse.[25]

To view the MEMRI TV clip of Minister Issa at the press conference, here or below.

July 4: Great Mosque Of Paris Rector To Toulouse Mayor: "We Strongly Condemn... The Incongruous Words Of This Imam Quoting A Hadith By Abu Hurayra"; Tatai Should "Apologize And Explain"

In a July 4 open letter to Toulouse Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc, Great Mosque of Paris Rector Boubakeur wrote: "We strongly condemn and regret the totally incongruous words of this imam quoting a hadith by Abu Hurayra..." and that "our position is that this imam should organize a meeting with the Toulouse people to apologize and explain [his position]." The letter was also tweeted on July 6 by the Great Mosque of Paris; the tweet stated that Boubakeur "condemned and regretted the totally incongruous words of this imam." 


The letter and the tweet (source: Twitter.com/mosqueedeparis/status/1015160748299997184, July 6, 2018)

July 5: National Office of Vigilance Against Antisemitism Files Complaint Against Great Mosque Of Paris Rector

Following the Great Mosque of Paris's July press release, it was reported, on July 5, that the National Office of Vigilance against Antisemitism (BNVCA) had filed a complaint against Rector Boubakeur for his defense of Tatai.[26]

July 12: Great Mosque Of Paris Backtracks "Given The Magnitude Of The Controversy... And Misunderstandings About Our Position... We Strongly Condemn His Remarks"

On July 12, the Great Mosque of Paris issued a new press release, to "reaffirm" its "firm and unequivocal condemnation of the terms used by this imam during his preaching in December 2017." It added that this well-known and oft-cited hadith "had no place to be exhumed from oblivion."

It should be noted that the mosque's original July 2 press release could no longer be found on the mosque's website, though it remains on the mosque's Twitter feed and on the website of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse.

The statement read: "In view of the huge controversy triggered by the words of Imam Tatai of Toulouse and of the misunderstandings regarding our position, we want to reaffirm our firm and unequivocal condemnation of the words used by this imam during his December 2017 sermon... We most firmly condemn what he said regarding a hadith reported by a traditionalist author (Abu Horaira) who was himself rejected by Umayyad Muslim dynasty... There is no reason for this hadith to have been exhumed from oblivion.

"The Imam Tatai of Toulouse, who does not belong to our National Federation of Mosques (FNGMP), was summoned by us to Paris, Monday, July 2, for the sole purpose of [us] signifying [to him] our total disapproval and condemnation. We [i.e. Boubakeur] strongly advised him to apologize to the religious authorities of the Toulouse Jews and to meet them in a spirit of peace.

"This unfortunate incident leads us to call on all imams in France to be careful about anything they might say that would harm other religions and creeds, and would be contrary to the values ​​of tolerance and peace advocated by Islam."

"Rector Dalil Boubakeur."[27]

 
The press release on the Great Mosque of Paris, as tweeted by it, July 12, 2018.

July 13: Algerian News Report On Great Mosque Of Paris "Denunciation" Of Tatai's "Rhetoric"

A July 13 Algerian news report, by Dzaïr News TV, stated that the Grand Mosque of Paris had "denounced" Tatai's "rhetoric." It stated: "The Great Mosque of Paris denounced the rhetoric used by the imam of the Toulouse mosque in France, the Algerian Mohamed Tatai, who was accused in its wake of inciting to antisemitism and hatred of the Jews. The [affair] has reached the French judiciary. A statement signed by Dalil Boubakeur, the manager of the Grand Mosque of Paris, conveyed the Grand Mosque's clear and unambiguous condemnation of the expressions used by that imam in a December 2017 address in a Toulouse mosque. The communique by the Grand Mosque completely contradicts statements made earlier by [Algerian] Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Issa, who rejected the claim that the imam's addresses were antisemitic."

To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below

  

 

[1] Cdctoulouse.chez.com/brochure2.htm, Francais.islammessage.com/Content_Details.aspx?id=17404.

[2] Tsa-algerie.com/a-toulouse-limam-algerien-mohamed-tatai-met-en-colere-le-prefet-le-crif-et-la-mosquee-de-paris/, July 17, 2018.

[3] Grand Mosque of Toulouse on YouTube, July 5, 2018.

[4] Grande-mosquee-toulouse.fr/.

[5] Times of Israel, June 30, 2018.

[6] Youtube.com/watch?v=Jwpn_YUyWPw, RT (Russia) UK channel, July 6, 2018.

[7] Times of Israel, June 30, 2018.

[8] Youtube.com/watch?v=Jwpn_YUyWPw, RT (Russia) UK channel, July 6, 2018.

[9] Times of Israel, June 30, 2018; Youtube.com/watch?v=Jwpn_YUyWPw, RT channel, July 6, 2018.

[10] Youtube.com/watch?v=Jwpn_YUyWPw, RT (Russia) UK channel, July 6, 2018.

[11] France3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/haute-garonne/toulouse/video-apres-ses-propos-juifs-imam-toulouse-s-explique-1506553.html, July 4, 2018.

[12]AFP, Le Journal du dimanche, Le Figaro, July 17, 2018.

[13] Twitter.com/Le_CRIF/status/1012626313285431296 , June 29, 2018.

[14] Uejf.org/blog/2018/06/communique-luejf-depose-plainte-contre-limam-mohamed-tatai/.

[15] Times of Israel, June 30, 2018.

[16] France3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/haute-garonne/toulouse/video-apres-ses-propos-juifs-imam-toulouse-s-explique-1506553.html, July 4, 2018.

[17] Ladepeche.fr/article/2018/07/05/2830971-mohamed-tatai-imam-empalot-preche-vise-ni-judaisme-ni-peuple.html, July 5, 2018.

[18] Grande-mosquee-toulouse.fr/.

[19] Youtube.com/watch?v=OhVfmTJ56U0, July 10, 2018.

[20] Interieur.gouv.fr/Le-ministre/Interventions-du-ministre/Diner-du-Conseil-Representatif-des-Institutions-Juives-de-France-Marseille-Provence-CRIF, July 5, 2018.

[21] Twitter.com/Sifaoui/status/1013112655958216704, June 30, 2018.

[22] Mosqueedeparis.net/mosquee-de-toulouse-mise-au-point-de-limam-tatai/, July 2, 2018.

[23] Grande-mosquee-toulouse.fr.

[24] Ennahar TV, YouTube, July 3, 2018.

[25] La Dépêche, June 10, 2018.

[26] Bnvca.org, July 4, 2018.

[27] Mosqueedeparis.net/polemique-sur-limam-de-toulouse-mise-au-point/ , July 12, 2018.