Thursday, January 22, 2009

From the "catch 'em being good" file

A couple of light workers in the French Islamic community. God bless them for their efforts at bringing peace about.

A fragile cease-fire has silenced the violence in Gaza, but a continent away, a Muslim prayer leader known for reaching out to France's Jews is facing death threats.

Hassen Chalghoumi is one of the most visible victims of the raw friction between French Jews and Muslims, and among the best poised to help heal the wounds between the two faiths.

France is home to western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim communities, with 600,000 Jews and an estimated 5 million Muslims. Anti-Semitic attacks have soared in France after Israel opened its Dec. 27 offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The Tunisian-born Chalghoumi, 35, has found himself caught in the middle. His car had oil poured on it. He has received anonymous death threats on his cell phone. His house is now under police watch and he is shadowed by a bodyguard.


As Israel rained bombs on Gaza and anti-Semitic attacks hop-scotched across Europe this month, Hakima Milati worked the phones, inviting Jewish and Muslim women to visit the main mosque and synagogue in the eastern central city of Lyon.

It didn't take long to book the 60 places available for the event, which included a Kosher meal, said Milati, a Muslim. "I've had to turn people away." [...]

"What I realized was that women could still construct something together when it came to artistic and cultural things," said Derczansky. "It was on that basis that I told myself that I had to disconnect women in France from their differences over the Middle East and connect them with things that brought the two sides together."

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