June 9, 2014
On Monday, June 9, French imams gathered alongside members of the Belgian Association Against Anti-Semitism in front of the Jewish Museum in Brussels. The ceremony was held in order to commemorate those killed in the May 24 shooting in which Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche shot four people, three of whom were killed. The gathering included a prayer during which leaders of both the Muslim and Jewish communities joined hands before a moment of silence, followed by a candle lighting ceremony to honor the victims.
Hassen Chalghoumi, the “imam of Drancy,” was present at the ceremony. Chalghoumi is known for his fierce opposition to radical Islam and its violence, his denunciation of pro-Palestinian demonstrations, and his close ties with France’s Jewish community. In his speech he asserted that “The Muslim majority must end its silence and state that we don’t have anything to do with this type of individual. I also urge parents to engage in dialogue with young people. If I am here, it is to demonstrate that the Muslim community supports the bereaved families. Because we are all victims. One cannot associate Islam with this mentally ill individual. He himself chose this path.” In an effort to prevent the influence of imams trained in countries outside of Europe, Chalghoumi emphasized the need for a “European Islam.”
Writer Marek Halter of the Jewish community also spoke. “It is important to reconcile religions and to remember that those who kill are not part of the majority, otherwise we all would have been killed,” said Halter. The initiative of French imams has touched the Jewish community in Brussels, especially the museum’s president Philippe Blondin: “It’s…a magnificent gesture of openness. I welcome them with great emotion.”
Following the shooting the European Union pledged to combat the “jihadist threat.” It has prepared a series of measures to identify young Europeans who have left to fight in Syria in order to prevent them from committing violent acts when they return to Europe.