Paris: Worshipers want to fire "burka-opposing imam"

Paris: Worshipers want to fire "burka-opposing imam"

Chalghoumi says that he doesn't oppose the burka, but that he doesn't think a woman can wear the burka peacefully in France, and there are other, more real, issues to deal with. (FR)  The worshipers of the mosque, on the other hand, claim he's not an imam.


Called to explain his version of the incidents on Monday which, he says, were caused by Islamists, Hassen Chalghoumi claims to be the imam at the Drancy mosque  (Seine-Saint-Denis) and says he got death threats, hurriedly left the mosque Friday, cursed by a hundred worshipers, escorted by several policemen.

"Liar!" and other curses were shouted when Hassan Chalghoumi, who is hostile to the burqa and known for his relations with the Jewish community, took the microphone to explain himself to the numerous worshipers who had come for the weekly Muslim prayer, the first since those events.

A modern building of glass with white and brown panels, the mosque is wedged between the railway tracks and the sports facilities, erected at the site of a former beer factory: it's managed by the cultural association Al-Nour (The Light), chaired by Hassen Chalghoumi.

According to the worshipers interviewed by AFP, Chalghoumi is the president of the association, an administrative function, and not the imam, a person who is supposed to have better knowledge of the religion and who is authorized to lead the prayers and to give sermons.  In Islam, there is no clergy.

Two complaints of libel were lodged Tuesday against Hassen Chalghoumi, following the complaint against unknowns for violence and death threats which he made earlier.

Standing by the police 'boss' he assured the worshipers before starting prayers that he did not lodge a complaint, but just registered the incident, saying that the commissioner could confirm it.  He refused to give to microphone to one of his opponents who wanted to respond. 

At the end of prayers, the people involved were invited to a frank and calm discussion, respecting the place.  The mosque is not a place for controversy but for simply listening.

"I did not speak on behalf of Muslims," Hassen Chalghoumi defended himself and citing his remarks on the burqa and his agreement with the law banning this practice, accused the press of twisting his words.

"Liar!" shouted a majority of the worshipers who remained to follow this explanation.  "We recorded what you said on the radio," somebody shouted at him.  Other curses rose up.

Hassen Chalghoumi brutally put an end to the exchange and left the mosque, escorted by the police.

In the confusion, a young worshiper tried to make himself heard.  Yacine was part of the group accused of having caused the violent intrusion Monday.

"We are not a commando.  It passed off peacefully.  We came to ask our brother Hassen to explain his position.  We wanted to ask him not to speak on behalf of the Muslims of Drancy because not everybody has the same opinion on wearing the niqab."

In the confusion, Yacin invited the worshipers to go out and sign a petition demanding the resignation of Hassen Chalghoumi from the presidency of Al-Nour.  The text emphasizes that Chalghoumi is the 'administrative officer' and not the imam.

"We do not recognized the imamate of somebody who arrives accompanied by bodyguards," says the text.

Source: AFP (French)

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