French-Tunisian Imam Recalls Death Threats From Islamists After He Called for Respect of Holocaust Commemorations

Imam Hassen Chalghoumi.

January 31, 2022

A French-Tunisian imam known for promoting interfaith ties revealed this month that he and his family having been facing threats from Islamists for years, ever since he called for Holocaust commemorations to be respected in 2005.

In a France 2 TV interview, Hassen Chalghoumi — the 50-year-old imam of the municipal Drancy mosque near Paris and president of the Conference of Imams of France — recalled, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), “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,” he added. “And then I received anonymous calls and letters. In 2009, they torched my car, and they attacked my house.”

“They assaulted my wife in a market,” Chalghoumi said. “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. 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.”

Chalghoumi noted he regularly changed his daily schedule at his mosque for security reasons.

“I attend at different hours, to prevent [creating] a routine that would allow someone who follows me to plan [an attack],” he said. “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 Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) has launched a campaign to gather messages of support for Chalghoumi, to show him he is not alone in combating extremism.

In May 2021, Chalghoumi spoke at the “Justice for Sarah Halimi” international solidarity rally organized by the CAM and the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF).