A group of 30 European imams set off on a road trip on a “March Against Terrorism” on July 8, at least one of them and his family under threat of death.
The group will travel by bus and visit sites of Islamic terror attacks in Belgium, Germany and France to send out a message “not to associate Muslims with crimes perpetrated in the name of Islam.”
In an interview with German TV channel Deutsche Welle, Vice President of Imams of France Hocine Drouiche revealed that he and his family had received death threats and that some of the imams participating in the march would lose their positions in mosques. “It’s a complex problem. These people consider themselves to be enemies of the West.”
Their itinerary is as follows:
July 8: Departure from Porte de Montreuil in Eastern Paris
July 9: Breitscheidplatz, Berlin (Christmas market attack December 2016)
July 10: Place de la Bourse, Brussels (airport and subway attacks, March 2016)
July 10: Church of Saint-Etienne du Rouvray (assassination of Father Jacques Hamel, July 2016)
July 11: Hyper Kacher and Bataclan, Paris (attacks in January and November 2015)
July 12: Ozar-Hatorah Jewish school, Toulouse (attack March 2012)
July 13: Nice (attack July 2016)
July 14: Champs de Mars, Paris
Among the participants is Hassen Chalghoumi, the former imam of the Drancy mosque north of Paris. He is known for his opposition to radical Islam but is largely shunned by officials in Muslim organizations, such as the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith), which has refused to support the march.
Lisbon imam David Munir hailed the march as a historic European initiative, saying “Some people commit crimes in the name of Islam. We are here to say not in our name. Not to say that Islam is a religion of peace, we know that already, but to say we are seeking our European identity.”
The march has certainly not mobilized the Muslim communities in France (where there are over 2,500 official mosques) or Belgium (which has 328 mosques).
Mohammad Hajjaj, Director of the Central Council of German Muslims, tried to explain away the absence of support (there were more journalists covering the march than participants) by claiming that public demonstrations are not common in Muslim countries, which are often ruled by autocrats or dictators. “I do not believe that Muslims have this culture of demonstrating” he told DW. “They have only become accustomed to marching in the streets since they emigrated to Europe in the 1950s and 60s. It will take generations for this to become natural to them.”
It will be interesting to see how many imams join them en route to the rally at the Champs de Mars on Bastille Day.