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For a French Imam, Islam's True Enemy Is Radicalism
by Steven Erlanger
Hassen Chalghoumi, 38, is the imam of President Nicolas Sarkozy's dreams. He supports a ban on the full facial veil, the so-called burqa; he opposes religious radicalism and promotes a "republican Islam" focused on France; he is ecumenical; and he favors dialogue with France's Jews.
But Mr. Chalghoumi has also received death threats for his public positions and in particular his support for a ban on facial veils, including the black niqab, which reveals only the eyes. There are voices of dissent among the 2,500 worshipers at his mosque here in Drancy, just northeast of Paris. He has been called "the imam of the Jews."
Twice, bands of young men, wearing knitted skullcaps and many of them bearded, demonstrated angrily at the mosque. At Friday Prayer two weeks ago, they demanded his resignation. Some shouted, "The anger of God on you," which Mr. Chalghoumi understood as a threat.
"The large majority of people inside the mosque completely disagree with what Mr. Chalghoumi said" about the veil, "and what shocked us is that he said it as imam of Drancy," one young man, Karim Hachani, told rue89.com, an Internet newspaper.
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