French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi spoke out against political Islam, saying that takfir (accusing others of heresy) "is a part of the Islamic nation and the Arab world" and that ISIS emerged "from our own countries, from among our sons." Chalghoumi, who is the imam of the Drancy mosque in Seine-Saint-Denis, said that people who left to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq must not be allowed to return. "They are killers," he said, speaking in an Al Janoubia TV interview in Tunisia on February 7, and warning that "Our social services are not qualified to deal with children like these." "As a result of the brutal crimes they committed, they have become barbaric," said Imam Chalghoumi, adding that "a 12-year-old boy like that might enter a French school with a knife and slaughter 60 people. Why should we be the ones to pay the price?"
Hassen Chalghoumi: "Sadly, there is a small group of people who do not believe in diversity of opinions. They do not believe in the mercy of Islam, in its inclusiveness, or its humanity. They believe that there can be only one opinion. They believe in accusing anyone who disagrees with you of heresy. They believe that people have evil intent. They believe in violence. I am talking about political Islam as a whole – takfiris, Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, all of them.
"When faced with what ISIS and the takfiri groups are doing, or what is done by the groups that have politicized and harmed Islam, in Tunisia and elsewhere – should we remain silent? Absolutely not. On the contrary, it is our responsibility to speak out and state our opinion."
Host: "Even at risk to your life?"
Hassen Chalghoumi: "Well, thousands are paying the price. In the past six years, two million have been killed or wounded in the Arab world. Until when?"
Host: "Because of ISIS?"
Hassen Chalghoumi: "Yes, because of ISIS, the takfir, and political Islam.
"If the so-called 'Islamic Caliphate' or whatever came into being over the bodies of innocent civilians, and through the destruction of an entire civilization... If the purpose of Islam is to kill non-Muslims, why didn't it kill them right from the outset?
"We should stop blaming others. We always believe in conspiracy theories. The Sufis believe that if you point your finger at someone else, three other fingers point back at you. So we are responsible for three quarters of the problem. Takfir is a part of us."
Host: "What do you mean 'us'?"
Hassen Chalghoumi: "It is part of the Islamic nation and the Arab world. Where did ISIS members come from? Did they emerge from the sea? They came from our own countries, from among our sons.
"Between 5,000 to 7,000 Tunisians joined ISIS. 7,000 from Europe, 1,700 from France alone. These figures are unbelievable!
"About 200 [Jihadists] have recently returned [to France]. But why did they go in the first place? If they had been lured there in 2011 or 2012, perhaps we could understand. Back then, there were calls for freedom and support, and people were talking about humanitarian disaster and so on. But why didn't they come to their senses in 2013, 2014, or 2015? It lasted for five or six years – the killings, the genocide, the rapes, the beheadings, unheard-of things. Such brutality has perhaps never been witnessed by humanity before... So if they did not repent and repudiate that ideology back then, why are they coming back now? There was a woman who went..."
Host: "They are coming back because ISIS was defeated."
Hassen Chalghoumi: "That's right. If ISIS had won, they would have stayed there, and would have conquered other countries and wreaked destruction... They must never return. They are killers."
Host: "Shouldn't they be allowed back?"
Hassen Chalghoumi: "Absolutely not. They are killers.
"In France, for example, a woman recently returned [from Syria]. She was arrested at the Roissy Charles De Gaulle airport. She was immediately taken to prison for belonging to an extremist group. Her children were taken by social services, as mandated by the law. Or take the sister of Mohammed Merah, the perpetrator of the crime [of the shooting] in Toulouse. She traveled to Syria and Iraq with her four sons. Why did she go there? Now she wants to return. On what grounds should she be allowed back? Our social services are not qualified to deal with children like these. These are children who have lost their childhood, I'm sad to say. As a result of the brutal crimes they committed, they have become barbaric. A 12-year-old boy like that might enter a French school with a knife, and slaughter 60 people. Why should we be the ones to pay the price?"