Following are excerpts from an address delivered by France-based Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, which was posted on the Internet on March 22, 2012.
Title: "The Conference of Eastern Christians in Trouble, held at Neuilly-sur-Seine on Monday, March 22, 2012, by the Committee for the Defense of Religious Minorities"
Mediator Robert Solé: We know you to be a defender of the [French] Republic and its laws. What can be done so that the tolerant Islam that you represent becomes a reality not only in France, but in the Middle East, and possibly in the Maghreb?
Hassen Chalghoumi: For years we have been denouncing radical islam and calling to be careful. Just last night, there was a demonstration of 3,00 or 4,000 Salafists in Tunisia, calling for the death of the Jews. This deviant [Salafist] minority can be divided into three groups.
One is the Jihadist Salafists, to which Mohamed Merah belonged, and another is the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt is being tormented by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a huge and disastrous ideology.
We European Muslims are hostages, caught between extremism and racism.
The West does not help Sufi Islam.
The [Salafists] were in Europe as political refugees. They returned to Tunisia and took the reins of power there. There are more than 27,000 Salafists in Tunisia. Weapons come in. Liberated from a dictator, and brought back to the diabolical Salafists, and the women, to begin with...
The first martyr after the revolution in Tunisia was a priest from a church in La Goulette. He was assassinated.
I praise the courage of the French president and the minister of the interior for banning [the entry] of the infamous Al-Qaradhawi, along with other extremists.
Let me tell you something. According to Tunisian intelligence, 7,000 French Salafists went to Tunisia. Imagine that.
Current Islamist ministers in Tunisia were in France. Our main task – although it's a bit difficult to say this – is to begin doing something here [in France]. A police source told me that today, there are at least 5,000 women who wear full veils in Tunisia. In the days of dictator Ben Ali, there was not a single one.
On January 25 this year, I was at the synagogue in Tunis, along with 40 imams of different origins: from Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. The Jewish community in Tunis was terrified. They said that it was the first time since the revolution that non-Jews had entered the synagogue. We, as imams, were in peril [because of our visit] there. This was not easy for us. Fortunately, we had police protection.
This [threat] is due to people like Al-Qaradhawi, to a channel like Al-Jazeera TV, and to a policy like that of Qatar.