By Manel Mselmi, Paris
Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, the president of the conference of the imams in France is one of the most appreciated people in western world due to his courage and defense of a moderate version of Islam together with his openness towards Jewish and Christian communities. However, this struggle for a reformed and European version of Islam together with his constant criticism of Islamists and extremists made him lead a risky life under multiple threats and insults on social média as well as police protection.
Je Suis Charlie
Being one of the first Muslim leaders in France and in Europe who supported the freedom of speech and fought against hatred and religious extremism following the Charlie Hebdo attack, Chalghoumi was insulted and threatened to death because of his solidarity with the victims. Most of islamists attacked him and considered his action as insult to Muslims because of the Cartoons on the prophet. Chalghoumi believes that islam is a religion of Peace and respect and we should defend the freedom of speech even if it attacks the sacred.
Defending the Jewish community and minorities
Another reason why the imam of Drancy is criticised, is his close relationship with the Jewish community and his fight against antisemitism, and the fact that he joined the #weremember campaign made him an object of hateful and even threatening comments on social media. Chalghoumi believes that a Muslim leader should show an example of love, solidarity and support to other religious communities in order to show that coexistence is possible in a democratic society. His defence of the Armenian or the Yazidi cause made him considered as a disloyal to the Muslim cause especially by Islamists in Turkey.
Tareq Ramadan and Metoo campaign
Following the Me too campaign launched by women in the US and later on in France by some activists, Henda Ayari joined the campaign by revealing the name of her rapist who is the famous Islamic scholar Tareq Ramadan. Imam Chalghoumi supported the position of Henda Ayari and said that we have to wait for the court judgement but we should support the victims. A position which caused him a lot of attacks on social media by supporters of Ramadan who is admired by millions of young people in Muslim communities and who defends a political Islam initiated by his founding fathers of the Muslim Brotherhood. The imam of Drancy does not share this vision of Islam and he calls for a secular society separating politics from religion especially in his native country Tunisia.
Gender Equality and the burqa ban
Another important cause that Imam Hassen Chalghoumi defends is gender equality in Islam. He believes in equal rights between men and women. He is for the burqa ban and believes that women should be free towear whatever they want. He was criticised by Islamists in so many interviews on Arabic channels in which he says that imposing the burqa or the veil is unfair and that women should have equal opportunities. He lately welcomed the new reforms in the Tunisian constitution regarding gender equality, a position harshly criticised by Alazhar scholars.
Finally, working on a Muslim march against terrorism together with Marek Halter, the famous Jewish writer and Journalist made him an object of critiques.The March of imams in July and that of Muslim Youth in November showed a commitment on the part of Hassen Chalghoumi and his partners towards a world of peace and coexistence and sends a positive message to the world.