Muslim march against terrorism criticized

A “Muslim march against terrorism,” which takes place July 8-14 in various cities throughout Europe, has attracted numerous criticisms in France from the country’s Muslims; even the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has refused to participate. From the onset the march has been plagued by issues surrounding its purpose, the organizers’ identities, and a general lack of transparency.

The controversial Hassen Chalghoumi, known as the Imam of Drancy, organized the march along with Jewish writer Marek Halter. Hocine Drouiche, less well known than Chalghoumi but just as controversial, is also heavily involved. As vice-president of the Conference of French Imams he was denounced by members of the CFCM in 2016 as a “usurper” after presenting himself as president of the Council of Imams of Gard.

Lastly, there is Eric Gozlan, executive director of Union of Peoples for Peace (UPP), of which Chalghoumi is president. In 2012 the association, which promotes interreligious dialogue, organized a controversial umrah to Jerusalem for imams.

Mohammed Izzat Khattab is largely responsible for providing funding. A Syrian businessman, he created the political movement Syria for All (La Syrie pour tous) in 2009 before creating a foundation in 2012 under the same name. The foundation’s stated aim is to “help his compatriots in Syria and in exile.” Convicted in Switzerland on various fraud charges, he was recently denied entry to the iftar dinner attended by President Macron.

The CFCM has refused to participate in the march. “We aren’t going to spend our time justifying ourselves,” said Abdallah Zekri.

The president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia also refused to associate with the event, which he said was initiated by “imams without mosques” rather than “Muslims on the ground.”