Hassen Chalghoumi: controversial imam and Muslim march organizer

Hassen Choulghami is the self-proclaimed former imam of Drancy, a banlieue north of Paris. Born in Tunis, he lived in Lahore for several years where he attended a madrasa. There have been conflicting reports as to how he spent his time in Pakistan; while several sources state that he attended a fundamentalist madrasa and was a member of the Tabligh movement, he has subsequently denied all accusations of religious zealotry.

Chalghoumi arrived in France in 1996 and was naturalized in 2000. In the mid-2000s he reportedly rejoined the Tabligh movement and was monitored by French security services. He once again vehemently denied any association with the movement and worked to transform his public image.

Today, Chalghoumi is known for encouraging inter-religious dialogue, notably between Muslims and Jews, and describes himself as a representative of a “moderate and republican Islam.” He gained attention in 2009 when he organized the “Conference for the Imams of France” with the objective of creating fatwas, notably to encourage peace between Muslims and Jews. Although the conference was largely a failure, the initiative made him a well known public figure and he gained favor with the Sarkozy and Hollande administrations.

He has also become close with France’s Jewish community and has made numerous trips to Israel. His relationship with the Jewish community is viewed as promising to certain Muslims, who see the Jewish community as an example of a successful minority religion. However, many argue that he has yet to be seen as a truly representative figure for French Muslims.