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  • It is a little known fact that during the Occupation, when French Jews were being rounded up to be taken to the Nazi Death Camps, the Paris Mosque played an significant role in their protection.

    Si Kaddour Benghabrit was an Islamic scholar, and supremo of the Paris Mosque; he was a man of great culture and encouraged music and Andalous singing, and was a frequent visitor to the Salons of the intellectuals of Paris. Vichy was keen to keep him on side, as they wanted to show that they were the friends of Muslims

    He used his influence to give Jews asylum in the mosque and issue them with false Muslim identity. It was thus that he took the Andalous singer Salim Halili, who was born to Jewish parents in Algeria, under his wings, not only giving him false papers, but getting an unmarked tomb in the Muslim quarter of the Bobigny cemetery inscribed with his dead father’s name and particulars, when it became clear that the Vichy police was going to check.

    It is believed that Si Kaddour managed to save between 1000 and 1500 Jews from deportation. He has been long dead, but in 2005, an appeal was made by the descendants of some of the Jews who benefited from his help, to the effect that he be posthumously awarded a Yad Vashem Medal for the Justs.

    This is the theme of the film Les Hommes Libres / Free Men by Ismael Ferroukhi

    (Pic: La Mosque de Paris)
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