French Muslims slam preacher over statements

Boubakeur's pro-Israel comments anger France's Muslims

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Members of France’s Muslim community called for ousting the director of the Paris Grand Mosque after comments he had made in a French magazine that were interpreted as praising Israel and justifying its latest offensive in Gaza.

In an interview Wednesday with the tourist magazine SVP-Israel, the Paris Grand Mosque imam Dalil Boubakeur lashed out at Hamas for firing missiles at Israel and implied that Israel's reaction was justified.

“Concerning the latest event in Gaza, I personally believe that when organizations like Hamas bomb Israel over several years, they essentially generate Israeli reactions and expose the Palestinian population to reprisals,” he told the magazine.

Demanding explanation

The mosque sought to distance itself from his comments Saturday and reaffirmed its support for the Palestinian people. The mosque has been inundated with calls, from religious organizations to prominent leftist politicians, about his statements, an official at the Paris Mosque told AlArabiya.net.

"They all wanted an explanation to this anti-Palestinian stance despite the fact that Algeria is known for supporting just causes," said Abdullah Zikri, who is also a member of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, which Broubaker heads.

"We do not agree with what Boubakeur said about Israel and I will demand an explanation. If he really said so, it would be an insult that we cannot accept," he said.

Broubaker sought to distance himself from the comments Saturday in an interview with AlArabiya.net.

"The magazine took my statements out of context and I am taking the necessary measures to file a lawsuit," he said.

They all wanted an explanation to this anti-Palestinian stance despite the fact that Algeria is known for supporting just causes

Abdullah Zikri, French Council of the Muslim Faith


The article was presented in a Q & A format as part of a dialogue series between the Muslim and Jewish communities started after the Paris Mosque withdrew from the Jewish-Muslim Friendship Association in protest over Israel’s war on Gaza, Boubakeur told AlArabiya.net.

Boubakeur denied allegations that he will visit Israel although he said he had received an invitation from the Jewish community in France.

"The Paris Mosque has always supported Palestinians," Boubakeur added, referring to the humanitarian aid the mosque sent to Gaza via the French Foreign Ministry. The mosque also played a role in saving several Jews during World War II, he told the magazine.

Boubakeur, who is of Algerian origins, also told the magazine that he admired the intelligence of the Israeli people and that the Quran refers to Jews as God's chosen people.

Muslims were outraged by Boubaker’s seeming endorsement of Israeli aggression while other observers said the imam’s statements could be an attempt to woo France’s powerful Jewish lobby

The Franco-Algerian Association said it was preparing an official memorandum against Boubakeur for insulting Algerians and Muslims with his statements.

"We will submit our request after the Algerian presidential elections," Shafia Menshetla, a spokesperson for the association, told AlArabiya.net.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

The Paris Mosque has always supported Palestinians

Paris Grand Mosque imam Dalil Boubakeur