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April 24, 2018 1:09 pm

‘Indignant’ French Imams Issue Harsh Condemnation of Muslim Antisemitism, Terrorism

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The minaret of a mosque in Creteil, a suburb of Paris home to a large Muslim population. Photo: Reuters / Gonzalo Fuentes.

Thirty prominent French imams issued a strongly-worded condemnation of antisemitism and Islamist terrorism on Tuesday, stressing that the alternative of remaining silent “would make us complicit and therefore culpable.”

In a declaration published by the French daily Le Monde, the imams described themselves as “indignant” — both as French citizens and as faithful Muslims — “at the confiscation of our religion by criminals.”

“We, the signatories of this appeal, would first like to express our compassion for all our fellow citizens who have been directly or indirectly affected by terrorism and by the antisemitic crimes that have blindly struck our country,” the declaration began — referring to the rash of Islamist terrorist attacks in France over the last decade that have struck targets from a Jewish school to the country’s leading satirical magazine, as well as the violent hate crimes that have compelled thousands of Jews to move out of their homes in several major urban districts.

The group of thirty imams represent mosques and Islamic centers in Paris, Strasbourg, Lyon, Nice and other French cities. Significantly, five of the signatories serve as chaplains to thousands of Muslim inmates in the French prison system — historically, a fertile recruiting ground for radical Islamist groups.

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In often emotional language, the declaration denounced what it called the “subversive expressions of Islam” that have “raged” in the French Muslim community, generating a “religious anarchy.”

“Some imams unfortunately contributed, often unconsciously,” the imams continued. “Courage compels us to recognize it.” The declaration added that “many imams” had still not grasped “the harmful psychological effects on vulnerable minds” that their incendiary sermons had produced.

In an unambiguous condemnation of the suicide terrorism glorified by Islamists as “martyrdom,” the declaration stated that “theologically speaking, the martyr is the one who suffers unjust or sudden death, and not the one who seeks and provokes it.” The imams urged young men attracted to radical Islam “to listen to the Prophet Muhammad’s warning that a Muslim who harms the life of an innocent person living in peace with Muslims will never breathe the perfume of Paradise.”

The imams said that the growth of ISIS had driven home the realization that Muslim youths in France and elsewhere in Europe were “tinkering with a disturbing combination of crime and religion.”

Ending the declaration with the words “Long live the Republic and long live France!” the thirty Muslim religious leaders called on other “enlightened imams” to join them in combating “all forms of extremism that can directly or indirectly lead to terrorism.”

Tuesday’s statement by the imams followed a widely-reported manifesto issued on Sunday by 300 leading French intellectuals, artists and politicians against the “new antisemitism in France.”

Actor Gérard Depardieu and writers Pascal Bruckner and Bernard-Henri Lévy were among those who denounced the “low-level ethnic cleansing” that had led some 50,000 Jews to urgently seek safer housing away from largely-Muslim urban neighborhoods.

“In our recent history, eleven Jews have been murdered — and some tortured — by radical Islamists because they were Jews,” the manifesto observed.

Two of those murders took place in the last twelve months in the same neighborhood of eastern Paris. In April 2017, Sarah Halimi, a 65-year-old pensioner, was beaten and then thrown out a third-floor window by an Islamist intruder, while in March 2018, Mireille Knoll, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, was stabbed to death and then burned by two assailants, one of whom was a Muslim neighbor she had known since his childhood.

The manifesto urged Muslim “religious authorities” to follow the example of the Catholic Church by declaring antisemitic statements in the Quran to be “obsolescent” —  that is, discredited — “so that no believer can rely on a sacred text to commit a crime.”

Writing in Le Monde on Tuesday, Dr Gunther Jikeli — an expert at Indiana University’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism — noted that successive opinion surveys conducted over the last ten years had concurred that “antisemitism is significantly higher among Muslims than among non-Muslims.”

“In spite of all the denial that surrounds it, the truth is that there is a specific form of Muslim antisemitism — just as there is a specific form of Christian antisemitism,” Jikeli wrote. “As long as this phenomenon is not recognized, it will be impossible to fight it.”

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