The Board’s Edwin Shuker accompanied a group of six British imams on an emotional visit to Paris on Sunday to meet and express solidarity with the representatives of the French Jewish community following the recent terror attacks.
The imams approached Board senior vice president Laura Marks to investigate the possibility of a visit and it was organised within 48 hours.
The imams, who included two women , one of them a religious judge, met representatives of CRIF (Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France) on Sunday afternoon and the meeting was covered by local TV and Press.
The group then travelled to the Hypercacher, the kosher supermarket where four French Jews were murdered. There they met Imam Chalghoumi from Drancy as well as local leaders from Muslim communities around Paris. Mr Shuker commented: “The Imams behaved with total humility and some of them were visibly in tears.”
The British delegation and the Paris group, both Jewish and Muslim recited the traditional Islamic prayer which is their equivalent to the Kaddish.
The group later had dinner with a group of young French entrepreneurs at the restaurant in the Grand Mosque of Paris. The following day they went to the Prime Minister’s office where they were welcomed by Mr Reda Didi, the newly appointed official with responsibility for combating anti-Semitism and racism.The delegation then were officially welcomed to the Grand Mosque of Paris by the religious and lay leaders of the Parisian Muslim community.
The final visit was to the Victoire synagogue which is the largest synagogue in France and the site of the recent ceremony attended by the French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Mr Shuker commented: “This was a remarkable group of learned and articulate Imams confident and determined to challenge the barriers between their communities and ours .Much can be built on this visit.”