Monday, June 4, 2012

Tunisia's Imam of the Jews: Hassen Chalghoumi

Nadene Goldfoot
Tunisia has a population of about 10,383,577 who are 98% Sunni Muslims with the main fiqh being Maliki.  This is how they interpret Sharia law, how they observe rituals, morals and social legislation.  It's one of the 4 schools of Sunni Islam and is followed in North Africa, West Africa, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.  They have a secular government instead of  it being a state religion.

Before 1948 there were 110,000 Jews living there since the Roman times.  By 2010 there were only 1,000. In 1948 half the Jewish population went to Israel and the other half went to France.    Tunisia was the only Arab country under direct German occupation during WWII in the 40's.

40 year old Hasen Chalghoumi was born in Tunis in 1972 and is the Iman of the Drancy Mosque in Seine-Saint-Denis near Paris today. Before coming to Paris he was a member of the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamaic reformist and spiritualist movement which was started in 1926 by Muhammad Ilyas al-Kandhlawi in India, as sort of a response to the Hindu religion. It has taken on a pacifist stance.  He had been a caller for jihad but had changed his views.  He was different in that he supported Sarkozy's ban on the burqa which put him in good stead with zionist organizations in France causing an uproar in his own mosque.

This Iman has been active with the French zionist organization CRIF which caused him problems.  In 2006 his house was sacked and his children threatened after a speech he had made.  He's been called the Iman of the Jews because he is one of the few progressives that sees his religion in a different light.

He just attended a democracy and religion forum in Tel Aviv where he shared his thoughts on the Holocaust, women's rights and Arab nationalism.  He denounces hatred of Jews and doesn't mingle religion with politics. He said that mosques in Tunisia have turned into hostages held by extremists.

May his age multiply twice and he live till 120.  A man like this doesn't come along everyday.  He's someone that could make inroads to peace in the area.  I only wish he could sway the Palestinians to become more like him.


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