Hassen Chalghoumi interviewed by Le Figaro: ‘We have not built a French Islam’

February 16, 2014

 

Hassen Chalghoumi, the President of the Conference of Imans of France and President of the Muslim Association of Drancy was the guest speaker on the Talk Orange-Le Figaro show on February 11th.  The main themes were the nature of French Islam and French Muslims going to fight in Syria.

Chalghoumi began by saying he doesn’t like the word ‘Islamophobia’ when discussing discrimination in France, but prefers to say there is ‘racism’ and ‘anti-Muslim sentiment.’ When asked about the challenges facing the creation of a ‘French Islam’, Chalghoumi replied that Muslims have an ‘Islam in France’ and not yet an ‘Islam of France.’ Critical of associations like the CFCM (Conseil Francais de Culte Musulman), Chalghoumi claimed Muslims in France have yet to establish a representative body that is neutral, independent and not under foreign management and influence. As for the CFCM, Chalghoumi concluded they haven’t focused on doing anything effective for the youth and lack the tools for doing so.

Some of the immediate problems facing the community include a suitable training program for French Imams. It would be important to educate Imans nationally instead of letting it be done by Qatar. Other topics that haven’t been sufficiently dealt with include properly managing the halal meat system and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Referring to the government’s Integration Report released in December 2013, Chalghoumi declared he was for the push to teach Arabic in schools, since Arabic is not just a sacred language but an important business language. ‘France needs to open up to the world’ and teaching Arabic as a means to work abroad would be a good thing.

According to Chalghoumi, integration policy has been disappointing in France since there is no real mixture or diversity. Instead, separate ghettos are created and even elementary schools feel segregated with some schools having only African and Arab students.

If France did have a French Islam, then society wouldn’t have the problem of extremism. According to Chalghoumi’s estimate, there is a minimum of 700 French citizens fighting in Syria, including minors. Their profile is that they’re lost, desperate, ignorant of their religion and drawn into jihad via internet sites. Chalghoumi deplored the state of radicalization in the suburbs and said this has been a longstanding problem that he has already tried to address. When guiding families with a youth at risk, he tells them Syria is not an Islamic nor holy war, but an internal matter. Chalghoumi warns that these young fighters are today the enemies of Syria, and tomorrow the enemies of France.

 

Source (Video): http://video.lefigaro.fr/figaro/video/hassen-chalghoumi-on-n-a-pas-fait-un-islam-de-france/3215081510001/

 

Demand for US-born imams up as mosques struggle to retain new generation of American Muslims

Mustafa UmarANAHEIM, Calif. — Mustafa Umar, an imam in Southern California, is popular with the Muslim teenagers who attend his mosque. They pepper him with questions about sensitive topics like marijuana use, dating and pornography.

Umar, 31, is a serious Islamic scholar who has studied the Quran in the Middle East, Europe and India — but he’s also a native Californian, who is well-versed in social media and pop culture, and can connect with teens on their own terms.

That pedigree is rare — 85 percent of fulltime, paid imams in the U.S. are foreign-born — but the demand for people like him is growing as American Muslim leaders look for ways to keep the religion relevant for young people in a secular country that cherishes freedom of expression.

“The demand for American-born imams is an articulation of something much deeper,” said Timur Yuskaev, director of the Islamic chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, which educates Islamic faith leaders.

“It’s a realization that assimilation is happening and it’s going to happen. Now, how do we control it, how do we channel it?” he said. “These congregations, if they do not provide the services that the congregants expect, then they will not survive.”

Abdel Rahman Murphy, a 25-year-old assistant imam in Knoxville, Tenn., is striking that balance with his newly founded Muslim youth group called Roots. Kids play sports, battle it out in video-game playing contests or strut in a girls’ Muslim fashion show with the tongue-in-cheek title “Cover Girl.”

Murphy, the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother and an Irish-American convert, was kicked out of a private Islamic middle school and strayed from the faith in high school — an experience he always keeps in mind.

“We can’t change what’s inside the package, but we can repackage it,” said Murphy, who tweets about college basketball and his faith.

What imams talk about during Eid

In their holiday Eid al-Fitr khutbas, or sermons, on Thursday (Aug. 8) many imams across the country noted a growing climate of acceptance in America, but urged Muslims not to forget the problems facing their communities in the U.S. and overseas.

 

“The Eid khutba is like the State of the Union address,” said Oklahoma-born convert Suhaib Webb, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, the biggest mosque in New England, to an overflowing crowd — men dressed in crisp robes, tunics, and three-piece suits, women in black abayas, long floral wraps, and colorful headscarves.

 

“Our community is at a unique crossroads,” Webb said, issuing a call for older Muslim generations to allow younger generations to have greater roles in community affairs. “There are a lot of young people with a lot of excitement, and a lot of old people with a lot of fear. And that’s not a healthy thing.”

 

Muzammil Siddiqi, the imam at the Islamic Society of Orange County (Calif.) and a member of the Fiqh Council of North America, urged Eid worshippers to be involved in civic affairs. He said they should support pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants, protest government surveillance policies, and participate in the NAACP’s anti-racism program.

 

While Islamophobia is still a potent force in America, Siddiqi said, Muslim efforts to become more engaged in American public life has led to greater acceptance by the broader American public.

Indeed, many Muslim observed Eid doing good work projects. In Washington state, some 4,000 Muslims were expected to visit non-Muslim neighbors offering holiday greetings and gifts.

The U.S. Postal Service has unveiled a stamp commemorating Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, the twin Muslim holy days.

The stamp, designed by Ventura, Calif.-born calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya, was first issued in 2001, and reissued a few times since. It features gold calligraphy that spells out “Eid Mubarek” in Arabic, the traditional greeting meaning, “May your religious festival be blessed.”

Some congregations celebrating Eid were much smaller, but showed an increasingly diverse Muslim-American landscape. The Los Angeles chapter of Muslims for Progressive Values was expecting several dozen worshippers at its Eid service, where the khutba was going to be given by a young gay member of the community.

As in years past, many imams focused on Muslim’s struggles abroad.

Moroccan Imams get together in Terrassa before the Ramadan

09 July 2013

 

A number of imams coming from Morocco landed at El Prat airport on Monday night to lead the prayers of the Catalan Islamic community during Ramadan. They were presented at the Grand Mosque in Terrassa, the largest in the country.

The presence of foreign Imams is normal for this time of the Islamic calendar and through them the 300.000 Muslims of Catalonia have the opportunity to discover the reality of other countries.

Muslim leaders stand against gay marriage

British imams and Muslim leaders speak out against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

 

“We have serious misgivings about the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which seeks to legalise gay marriage. As imams and Muslim leaders we have a responsibility to fulfil our sacred trust to God and present our view on these proposals on behalf of the Muslim communities we serve. Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and a woman that cannot be redefined. We believe that marriage between a man and a woman is the cornerstone of family life and the only institution within which to raise children. We are concerned that this radical change to the institution of marriage will impact on what is taught in schools. Muslim teachers will be forced into the contradictory position of holding private beliefs, while teaching a new legal definition of marriage. Muslim parents will be robbed of their right to raise their children according to their beliefs, as gay relationships are taught as something normal to their primary-aged children. We support the numerous calls from other faith leaders and communities who have stood firmly against gay marriage and instead support marriage as it should be, between a man and a woman.”

In life and words, Muslim leader bridges cultures

imamwebb0512-4.rWilliam Suhaib Webb, imam of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center in Roxbury, has been a target of conservative Muslims on the Internet, who call him a sellout, and of other critics who say he is an extremist.

He has tried, for better or for worse, to respond to all of it — in his sermons, on CNN, on Twitter. At the same time, he has endeavored to improve the mosque’s relationships with Jewish and Christian leaders in Boston.

“I’m just exhausted,” the 40-year-old Webb said, sipping a flask of coffee in his book-lined office overlooking the busy intersection of Tremont Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. “I don’t have days anymore. I just have . . . smears.”

Webb, who memorized the Koran while living with his parents in Oklahoma and became an advanced Islamic legal scholar after years of study in Cairo, has in recent years become among the most famous imams in America.

He has 34,000 Twitter followers and a “virtual mosque” website that gets some 13,000 page views a day. In his sermons and in social media, Webb — many followers call him “sheikh,” an honorific for a respected teacher — toggles effortlessly between English and Arabic, dropping words like “baller” and references to “The Walking Dead,” a television show about zombies, into exegeses of Sufi poetry.

When he came to the cultural center 18 months ago, he faced significant challenges. He had to connect with immigrants from all over the world, as well as their US-born children and converts from other faiths. He also had to be a bridge to the city’s other faith communities, someone who could help the city move beyond concerns, particularly among some Jewish leaders, that the mosque’s leadership had extremist ties.

Webb, for his part, had his own big plan — to establish one of the first Muslim seminaries in the country. He wanted to nurture a new generation of American imams and Muslim women scholars — orthodox, but culturally conversant and civically involved — and to educate more casual students about their faith.

The Marathon bombings cast Webb and his mission into a crucible. In the media, Islam was on trial again, and Webb was, too.

The quest for French educated imams

Liberation

07.05.2013

As so often declared by the French Government, the recent Secretary of State, Maneul Valls, wants to see more imams educated in France in mosques all over the country. He has made it one of his priority tasks to forward the cause and instructed a study conducted by the Ministry of Higher Education and Research on the subject, which is ought to be published in September.

Today, the majority of France’s ca. 1800 imams is still educated in the countries of origin of the diverse French Muslim community, despite that a large segment of France’s Muslims represents the second or third generation of immigrants. One of the greatest obstacles for the attraction of French educated imams is the lack of funding assigned to the job in the country. As most financial assets of the community are diverted to the construction of mosques and other facilities, the majority of imams need to be recruited from abroad based on lower salary expectations. France’s imams are in their majority sent from Algeria, Turkey, Morocco and other countries to teach no more than 4 years in the country while remaining to be regulated and under the control of their countries of origin.

The French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) has for long championed the cause of recruiting French educated imams, but has failed to advance the cause. The internal politics of the larger French Muslim organisations, who prefer to hold sway over who is in power of teaching and influence the Muslim community, has further made it difficult to make progress. While the Union of Muslim organisations in France (UOIF) and the Grand Mosque of Paris have set up training centres for imams, it is unclear what happened to the many French trained students of the imam centres. Most are believed to have visited the centres to learn Arabic or learn Islamic sciences, prior to unsuccessfully enrolling to greater Muslim centres of theological teaching such as Medina or Cairo

Belgian Foreign Minister wants to monitor Imams

02.03.2013

RTBF

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said in an interview to Sud Presse that the recognition of the Muslim faith in Belgium needs to be linked to certain conditions, such as the surveillance of imams. Reynders wants to better control the training of imams and their teachings in mosques in order to prevent radicalisation. State financial aid towards the faith needs to be met with state scrutiny and influence upon the organisation of the faith, according to him. He wants to collaborate with Muslim communities in his efforts to clamp down on the radicalisation of Muslims in the country.

The executive of the group Muslims in Belgium, Semsettin Ugurlu, stated that ‘10% of the population of Belgium are Muslims and thus citizens with a right to practice their cult (…) the subsidies must not be used as a means to pressure” the community.

In a follow up to the story, Ugurlu proposed an imam school in Belgium in order to avoid recruiting imams taught elsewhere than in Belgium.