Feature

Det gjentas til stadighet i norske medier at det går en tiltagende islamofobi over Europa, dvs. at muslimer utsettes for overdreven kritikk. De som skriver dette burde først besvare og tenker etter: hvem er det som trenger livvakter i dagens Europa? Er det ytterliggående islamister, eller er det de som kritiserer dem?

I den franske byen Drancy bor imamen Hassen Chalghoumi (38). Han er for en republikansk islam, dvs. en islam som er forenlig med det franske demokratiet. Han går også inn for dialog med jødene i landet. Dagen etter at han hevdet dette ble huset hans vandalisert, og nå lever han med livvakt over alt hvor han går.

Det er realiteten i dagens Europa.

Chalghoumi er en interessant fyr. Han er fra Tunisia, og kom til Frankrike 24 år gammel. Han har tilpasset seg det franske samfunn. Det tåles ikke av de som flokker seg rundt islam og betrakter religion som negasjonen av alt fransk.

Chalghoumi ser at tildekking av kvinner fungerer som maktinstrument og undertrykkelsesvåpen for islamistene. Derfor går han inn for forbud mot niqab og burka (kona går med hijab). For det og for vennskapet med jødene er han blitt forhatt.

But Mr. Chalghoumi has also received death threats for his public positions and in particular his support for a ban on facial veils, including the black niqab, which reveals only the eyes. There are voices of dissent among the 2,500 worshipers at his mosque here in Drancy, just northeast of Paris. He has been called «the imam of the Jews.»

Twice, bands of young men, wearing knitted skullcaps and many of them bearded, demonstrated angrily at the mosque. At Friday Prayer two weeks ago, they demanded his resignation. Some shouted, «The anger of God on you,» which Mr. Chalghoumi understood as a threat.

«The large majority of people inside the mosque completely disagree with what Mr. Chalghoumi said» about the veil, «and what shocked us is that he said it as imam of Drancy,» one young man, Karim Hachani, told rue89.com, an Internet newspaper.

Mr. Hachani had seen a video of Mr. Chalghoumi at a Jewish ceremony and was shocked. «They said to Chalghoumi, ‘You are part of us,’ and it frightens us. A rapprochement with the Jews, why not? But not to such an extent.»

Born in Tunisia, Mr. Chalghoumi came to France at the end of 1996, at 24. Asked if he is nervous for his safety, he smiled almost shyly. «It’s my mother who worries,» he said, and laughed a little. «My mother told me, ‘Bin Laden and his team will never set you free.’ «

Still, he had two police bodyguards with him during an interview, and they also accompanied him to the mosque.

Chalghoumi kaller det «gate-islam». Det er den som fenger. Den er full av fanatisme og sinne. Rettet mot det franske samfunnet. Gate-islam er farlig.

Those who support the full veil in France are ignorant, having absorbed a street Islam of anger and slogans in a time of rising radicalism, he says. The full veil itself, he says, cuts off Muslims from France and frightens many.

«A man who knows nothing about religion and sees a woman hidden from head to toe, what is he going to understand from that religion?» he asked. «The burqa is a sign of extremism, and it’s normal that the state is fighting against that.»

The debate on the veil is a distraction from the real needs of French Muslims, he said, citing problems of poverty, unemployment, poor housing and racial prejudice.

Asked if the choice to wear the full veil was not also an expression of freedom, Mr. Chalghoumi said simply, «Freedom has limits,» adding: «If some ‘acts of freedom’ stir hatred, it’s not good. And will it show the good side of Islam? I don’t think so. One has to respect the feelings of others.

«The French have not accepted the hijab,» the head scarf, he said. «How do you expect them to accept the niqab?»

You see the problem? he asked excitedly, his French becoming more accented. «People think Islam is a dark, closed religion, that women are imprisoned and men think only about sex. What an image! This is the perception I refuse!»

I stedet for å forsvare retten til å bære burka og niqab, burde liberale mennesker i Vesten forstå avstanden det skaper mellom europeere og muslimer.

Chalghoumi sier uvitenhet og radikalisme er det farligste. Han gjør det han må gjøre. Han er imam i Drancy, byen som var oppsamlingspunkt for jødene som ble sendt til Auschwitz. Det er en historie Chalghoumi har tatt inn over seg.

In 2006, at a ceremony there, Mr. Chalghoumi, largely unknown, spoke of the horrors of Drancy and the Holocaust. He described his «heavy heart» and «an injustice without equal.» He said Muslims and Jews were related, declaring that «the children of Israel and of Ishmael are cousins, and remain so today.»

His house was vandalized the next day.

Chalghoumi kommer snart med en bok, Republikansk imam. Han har medienes øre, men muslimene lytter ikke til ham.

Chalghoumi vil ha religiøs undervisning inn i den offentlige skolen, noe som bryter med den franske laïcite, det skarpe skillet mellom samfunn og religion. Chalghoumi sier tiden har løpt fra denne løsningen. Hvis ikke staten underviser i religion, gjør de radikale det. – De stjeler våre barn, sier Chalghoumi. Myndighetene later som ingenting, men en dag vil de få merke det.

For a French Imam, Islam’s True Enemy Is Radicalism