French Imam: Since My Call to Respect the Memory of the Holocaust, I Wear a Bulletproof Vest to the Mosque

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Tunisian-born Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Drancy mosque near Paris, told France 2 TV that ever since he advocated respect for Holocaust commemoration in 2005, he and his family have been living under constant threat from Islamists.

Memri reports that Chalghoumi said he receives death threats, his wife and daughter have been assaulted, his house has been ransacked, his car has been torched, he often wears a bulletproof vest when he goes to the mosque for fear of being stabbed, and the Islamic State, Hizbullah and Hamas have all issued fatwas against him.

Here, courtesy of Memri, are excerpts from the interview with French 2 TV:

Host: “When did you start receiving death threats?”

Hassen Chalghoumi: “It was in 2005, at the Holocaust Memorial. I made a solemn appeal to respect the memory of the Holocaust, to also think about what people did to their fellow human beings, the consequences of racism, hatred, antisemitism… But unfortunately, my words were misunderstood. Two days later, they ransacked my house. I started to receive death threats in the name of a cause that has nothing to do with [my words] – the Palestinian cause, in the name of an ideology of hatred, perhaps against Israeli policy, or out of actual antisemitism… And then I received anonymous calls and letters. In 2009, they torched my car, and they attacked my house.”

Host: “How did you react to those threats and attacks?”

Chalghoumi: “At one point, I spoke to my dear wife, who is a French citizen, who attended a [French state] school, like my children. I said to her: Either I continue or I stop. She said: ‘No, don’t stop. Continue.'”

Host: “Have you ever considered giving up in order to protect [your family]?”

Chalghoumi: “No. Although the consequences have reached my home. I cannot say that all this remains outside my home, because it doesn’t. The Internet, the social media, the threats. They assaulted my wife in a market. They spat on her. They even asked her to divorce me. [They said:] ‘He’s not a Muslim!’ This is our daily life. My children also [suffer]. The school, and all the rest… I eventually consulted [my wife], and she said to me: ‘I support you. I am behind you.’ At some point, everything changed and there was no longer such a thing as daily life. From 2009-2010, it became difficult to go to the cinema with my kids, to restaurants with them…


“[Islamists] Demonize Me… You Should Know That The Words Of A Moderate Man Of Faith Is A Source Of Trouble For Them”

“Why is it like that? Unfortunately, for some time, we have let small groups and individuals alone, like the driving force behind the assassination of Samuel Paty, [French-Moroccan Islamist] Abdelhakim Sefrioui, this guru, this monster, or the Sheikh Yassin Collective and other fanatics… They demonized me, and when you demonize someone… These people have a radicalized religious discourse, and they are the ones who issue the fatwas, which are religious opinions. They are doing what the Islamic State does… In 2015, I had the Islamic State [against me]… In Syria, too, they issued a fatwa against me. Hizbullah, too, and Hamas. All those small groups don’t believe in light. You should know that the words of a moderate man of faith is a source of trouble for them. That’s why they issued a fatwa against me.”

“I Often Wear A Bulletproof Vest [To The Mosque] For Fear Of Knives… We Will Never Give Up; But When It Affects My Family, It Becomes Difficult”

Host: “But you can still go and preach at the mosque?”

Chalghoumi: “Yes, fortunately. But I don’t have the right to go there every day or to the same prayer service. I attend at different hours, to prevent [creating] a routine that would allow someone who follows me to plan [an attack].


“Unfortunately, I also often wear a bulletproof vest, for fear of knives. There are 3,000 or 4,000 worshippers at the mosque, I can’t control everything. The risk… I just came back from the Drancy Mosque. There were 3,000 worshippers at the mosque during the sermon. But we cannot know for sure – among the crowd, there might be someone like [terrorists Mohammed] Merah, like the Kouachi [brothers], or like [Amedy] Coulibaly…


“I no longer have an address under the name Chalghoumi. My wife and children are no longer called Chalghoumi… They have another name. We are still human beings… One of my daughters was assaulted. She has gained 30 kilograms [66 pounds]… We are strong inside, we will never give up. But when it affects my family, it becomes difficult.”




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