The imams were sent to France by the Foreign Ministry, in association with the Interior Ministry (religious authority), as a delegation including religious leaders from Haifa, Jadeidi, Majd al-Kurum, Jaffa and Rahat, for an official visit that lasts from April 3 – 10.
The visit serves as a reciprocal visit to that of French imams who visited Israel in November, led by the imam of Drancy, Hassen Chalghoumi. He has been active for a number of years in promoting cooperation between Jews and Muslims, and in promoting the integration of Muslims into French society. Due to his unconventional activities, Chalghoumi receives frequent threats to his life and is protected by the French Police’s unit for personal security.
Imam's prayer at Ambassador's residence in Paris
The visit of the imams from Israel included meetings with Muslim leaders from Paris, Toulouse and Marseille, a meeting in the Foreign Ministry, a reception at the French National Assembly, and a meeting with leaders of the Jewish communities of various cities. They also met with Muslim community representatives and participated in prayer services at mosques throughout the country.
Imams pray at residence of Israeli ambassador to France
Among members of the delegation from Israel: Sheikh Muhammad Khuayon, chair of the Imam Association in Israel and Imam of Majd al-Kurum; Sheikh Saliman Al Satal, Imam of Jaffa; Sheikh Rashad Abu Alhag’ah, Imam of the Haifa mosque; Sheikh Jamal Alomra, Imam of the Rahat mosque and manager of 120 mosques throughout the south; Sheikh Dr. Omar Cael, Imam of the mosque in Kfar Jadeidi in the North.
During the visit, the imams met with their French counterparts in the house of the French ambassador Yossi Gal, and prayed for peace. This was the first time that a Muslim prayer was held in the ambassador’s home.
A film showing the prayer was posted online and created a storm of controversy in the Muslim community in France. A website associated with the Muslim Brotherhood attacked the religious leaders who visited the house of the Israeli ambassador. On the other hand, another imam who had been against the activities of Chalghoumi was so moved by the meeting that he went to meet the Israeli imams.
Israeli ambassador in Paris Yossi Gal said during the reception held at his residence, “This is a meeting between leaders of the Muslim community in Israel, and French imams who are loyal to their country, citizens who are proud of France, and promote a world view that is based on values of peace, patience and understanding. It is our duty to continue to work together against extremism, violence and hate.”
At the reception were representatives of the French government and National Assembly, the Muslim community and non-governmental organizations, including representatives of Amnesty France. The Israeli imams were interviewed by French media, including Radio Monte Carlo, and the interviews were later broadcast in Arab countries.
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