French Imam Hassen Chalghoumi, a central public figure and founder of the “Conference of Imams,” visited the Knesset on Wednesday at the head of a delegation of 40 Muslim educators from France and met with Israeli officials.
Imam Chalghoumi is known for his efforts to promote moderate Islam and his criticism of radical Islam and fundamentalism, as well as his actions to encourage inter-religious dialogue and collaboration.
Chalghoumi is on his second visit to the Jewish state as part of a visit organized by the European Leadership Network (ELNET), which brings together leaders who believe in the importance of close relations between Europe and Israel.
In France, he is viewed as an Islamic leader who represents an essential alternative to radical movements. He also maintains a close relationship with the Jewish community of France, and recognizes the right of existence of a Jewish state in Israel.
In 2014, he headed a delegation of imams who visited Israel as part of an initiative that promotes peace.
He has been facing death threats after he met with IDF Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis in Paris in July 2018 and posted the historic meeting on social media.
His family lives in Bahrain due to threats on his life from the Islamic State (ISIS).
In May 2006, his home was ransacked following a Holocaust memorial ceremony that he conducted in Drancy, the site of Nazi deportations.
His cooperation with Jewish organizations in France has won him the epithet “Imam of the Jews.”
During the event at the Knesset, Chalghoumi noted that tensions in Belgium and France are high and that anti-Semitic incidents have risen by 74 percent. However, he said, extremist Muslims in these countries are a small and unrepresentative minority. While religious-political radicalization is occurring in all of Europe, he urged the media to reflect the true face of the populations, which seek coexistence, he said.
Member of Knesset (MK) Eli Avidar, who was present at the meeting, said the world is a better place because of people like Chalghoumi, who is not driven by fear.
The delegation also visited the Kotel, Western Wall, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, the Temple Mount, and Israel’s northern and southern borders.