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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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 US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
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.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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