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French Imams Commemorate Holocaust

Published: 06/02/2013 05:18:13 PM GMT
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PARIS - A group of Muslim imams have visited Holocaust site in France in an effort to dispel public misconceptions about the sizable community and their religion.“Most French Muslims aren't fanatics,” Hassan Shaljoumi, who (more)

PARIS - A group of Muslim imams have visited Holocaust site in France in an effort to dispel public misconceptions about the sizable community and their religion.

“Most French Muslims aren't fanatics,” Hassan Shaljoumi, who heads a mosque in the Paris suburb of Drancy, told France 24.

“We represent an Islam that values human life; that rejects fundamentalism, racism and barbarity.”

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Nearly 30 Muslim imams visited the Holocaust Memorial at Drancy on Monday, February 4, to show that Muslims are not anti-Semitic.

They laid wreaths of flowers in memory of the dead.

“At a time of growing racism and fear of Islam in France, we are saying ‘no, it is possible for us all to live together',” said Shaljoumi.

The visit comes amid growing public hostility against Muslims in the southern European country.

An IPSOS survey last month found that 74 percent of French see Islam is not compatible with French values.

It also comes amid a crackdown on Muslim imams by the French government on claims of preaching hatred.

French authorities have expelled several Muslim imams on accusations of preaching hatred and anti-Semitism.

The measures followed the killing of seven people, including three Jewish children, by a self-proclaimed Qaeda gunman in the southern city of Toulouse in March.

“Today, we are demonstrating that Islam in France is not necessarily subject to foreign influence or interference,” Shaljoumi said.

The visit comes shortly after a group of imams led by Shaljoumi visited Israel in November to dispel perceptions that Muslims are harboring hatred against Jews.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the Holocaust refers to "systematic state-sponsored killing of Jewish men, women, and children and others by Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II."

The commonly used figure for the number of Jewish victims is six million.

But the figure has been questioned by many European historians and intellectuals, chiefly French author Roger Garaudy.

Happy Jews

The imams' visit to the Holocaust site was swiftly welcomed by the French government.

“This is a powerful image that speaks much louder than words,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said.

“The world is in need of peace and understanding. It needs people who are prepared to speak out, and people who are prepared to listen.”

French Jews also praised the imams' visit.

“It's a big deal for them,” Jewish-French writer Marek Halter said, hailing what he said the “bravery” of the imams.

“It isn't easy and they know they will be subjected to insults on the Internet for coming here today.”

Memorial Director Jacques Fredj also applauded the move.

“I get the feeling that there is a growing number of French Muslims standing up to denounce, publicly and collectively, anti-Semitism in France,” he said.

“Today's visit is not only a message to their own community that hatred is not the Muslim way, it is also a message to the rest of the country that most French Muslims are not radicals.”

There was no comment from the Muslim community in France.France is home to a Muslim minority of six million, the largest in Europe.

Reproduced with permission from