News / Europe

French Imam Teaching Tolerance and Inclusion

French imam Hassen Chalghoumi, author of newly published book, 'For Islam In France' (file photo - 16 Jan. 2009)
French imam Hassen Chalghoumi, author of newly published book, 'For Islam In France' (file photo - 16 Jan. 2009)

Multimedia

Audio
Lisa Bryant

At a time when France is fearful of Islamist radicalism, one imam is speaking out against religious extremism and against intolerance and racism toward Muslims.

Friday afternoon prayers at al-Nour mosque, an unassuming building tucked behind a supermarket in the Paris suburb of Drancy.

In the women's section, one worshipper repeats the Shehada, attesting to her belief in one God, as she converts to Islam. Helping her along by video linkup is imam Hassen Chalghoumi, who has grabbed the media spotlight with his newly published book, For Islam In France.

Chalghoumi has been derided as the "Imam of the Jews", because he has reached out to France's Jewish community. He has received death threats for criticizing Muslim extremism and the face-covering veil, which the government recently banned in public places.

Chalghoumi says the niqab, or face veil, is not a religious obligation. Rather it alienates Muslim women from the rest of French society because it covers their faces. He says it also feeds on anti-Muslim sentiments in France.

In his book and in a recent interview, the 37-year-old imam describes the events that led him to a life of prayer. Born in Tunisia, he studied at El-Zitouna University, a famous theological institute in Tunis. He traveled widely in the Middle East and Asia to understand different branches of Islam, before arriving in France in 1996.

Chalghoumi said he was shaken at an early age by the 1990s conflict between Muslim extremists and the Algerian government that killed roughly 150,000 people. He says radical Islam had nothing to do with the tolerant religion his mother taught him.

As imam, he reaches out to the non-Muslim community in France, inviting local authorities to religious holidays. He has hosted dinners between police and Muslim teenagers, who often clash in tough French suburbs. He also works to improve tense relations between Muslims and Jews, who comprise France's second- and third-largest religions.

As an imam in Drancy, where tens of thousands of Jews were deported to concentration camps during World War II, Chalghoumi says he has a special obligation to reach out.

The president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, Richard Prasquier, describes Chalghoumi as courageous.

"I think we need to have more imams like Hassen Chalghoumi," Prasquier said. "We need to have imams who speak up, as he does, and who have his courage ... and who are willing to practice what he calls an Islam de France, an Islam with the values that we should all honor in our country."

Chalghoumi has lessons for Muslims and non-Muslims in France. He says French Muslims need to be given greater opportunities to succeed, but they must also overcome their own prejudices. And he believes each community must reach out more to the other.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More