French-Tunisian Imam Hassen Chalghoumi explained his interest in the Holocaust by saying that Islam "denounces violence and killing" and that the Prophet Muhammad instructed Muslims "to stand by the oppressed." In an interview with Al-Mouwatin Radio from Belgium, Chalghoumi, who is the imam of the Drancy mosque in Seine-Saint-Denis, said that he fears another holocaust, this time against Muslims. Chalghoumi fended off accusations of treason by contending that he was helping the Palestinian cause the way he saw fit. He denounced the "rhetoric of victimhood" and said that he was proud of his country, France. A video of the interview was posted on Al-Mouwatin Radio's YouTube channel on June 2.
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi: "As an imam, when I examine the Holocaust, I say that what fascist Nazism did to the Jews is condemned by religion and by humanity. Why can't I say this? Does my religion prevent me from doing so? Absolutely not. My religion denounces violence and killing. The religion in which I believe is the religion of peace and submission, the religion of the last prophet, sent by Allah as a mercy for Mankind. It was He who told me to stand by the oppressed. Besides, why mix Gaza with... Am I responsible for Gaza? In 2009, I traveled to Gaza, Allah be praised. I was in Gaza when all the troubles occurred. We are men of peace. We call for peace.
"In addition, by talking about the Holocaust, am I not protecting the Muslims at the same time? Racism and hatred of Muslims are on the rise, and with all the extreme right-wing parties... This should motivate us to talk [about the Holocaust]. I have said time and again that I fear a holocaust against the Muslims. Indeed, a Muslim Shoa. It is in the works now, primarily because of a small bunch of people among us, who have tarnished the image of Islam and the Muslims, and have led people to hate us.
"Take a look at the moral values of the Muslims today. Why can't we talk about the moral values of Muslims living in common neighborhoods? Must I have bad moral values just because I'm poor? Absolutely not. I've traveled to Bangladesh, where the poverty rates are extremely high, yet their moral values are the best. Have all the people of Bangladesh followed bin Laden and Al-Qaeda? Absolutely not. It's not about poverty.
"The Lord made Islam perfect, but we have defects. If we do not reform ourselves - our moral values and our conduct - and curb the high rate of extremism in our midst... We accuse everybody of heresy. Do we represent 'a mercy for Mankind' or are we the enemies of Mankind?
"I'm somewhat against the rhetoric of victimhood. Enough with it. We are always the victims... When will this end? When will we say: 'We too are responsible?'
"My country is part of my faith. Why can't we love our country? Why can't we love Belgium or France? I am proud to be French. I have been French since 2000. My wife is second-generation French. All my children were born French. Indeed, why not take pride in our citizenship? Is my religion at odds with my country? Absolutely not! This is what citizenship means. If we have not yet turned a new leaf on French-Algerian relations - what does Islam have to do with this?!
"In what way exactly are the Westerners hostile to us? Medical care is mostly free. Education is free. Knowledge is free. Okay, so there is a problem of imbalance, there is some racism. This is the nature of man. I am of Tunisian descent, and some people there were racist against the people of south Tunisia. The people of the north don't want the people of the south. This is the nature of man, created by Allah. But isn't it our duty to persevere?
"People sometimes call me a 'traitor.' What have I betrayed? I am not 90 years old, but some people blame me for the establishment of Israel. How stupid and ignorant they are. We must release ourselves from the confines of conspiracy theory. Enough! People say that they have done more than me for the Palestinian cause. I have gone to Gaza. I have prayed several times at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. This is my opinion. Respect it. This is my way of supporting the Palestinian cause, and you can support it in a different way. Must we all have the same opinion? They talk about freedom for the peoples. They can't even afford to allow freedom of other opinions. If they could restrain me, they would. They would kill me if they could."