World Jewish Congress welcomes French Muslim leaders’ support for end to Israeli soldier’s ordeal

The vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, Rabbi Marc Schneier, has welcomed an initiative by French Islamic clerics who on Tuesday called for the immediate release of the abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in captivity by Hamas in the Gaza Strip for 1,906 days already.

 Following an audience with President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysée Palace, Gilad Shalit’s father Noam today met with 15 French representatives of the Islamic community of France, who lent their support for the call on Hamas to release Gilad to allow him to receive medical treatment and be reunited with his family and friends.

In August, US Congressmen André Carson and Keith Ellison and prominent American Muslim leaders including Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative, former Ambassador Akbar Ahmed of American University, and Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America took a similar step and in a letter urged Hamas leader Khaleed Mashal to end Shalit’s five-year-ordeal.

Rabbi Schneier, who initiated the encounters between Shalit and the Muslim representatives, said: „Following the ground-breaking step taken by American Muslim leaders calling for the release of Gilad Shalit, our colleagues in France are a natural extension of our international movement of ‘fighting for the other’. It is gratifying to see these efforts now taking place on both sides of the Atlantic for a cause so dear to the Jewish people.”

Participating in the Paris meeting with Noam Shalit were Karim Benkamla of the Islamic community of Paris; Mohamed Benali, head of the Islamic community of the 15th District of Paris; Imam Gassama Bilhal of Paris; Imam Hassen Chalghoumi of Drancy; Imam Abdelkader Berkaoui of Antony; Fatima Masud, head of the Islamic community of Antony; Imam Abdullah Gakou, head of the Islamic community of Suresnes; Imam Akila Mohamed Tahar of Colombes; Moussa Niambele, head of the Islamic community of Montreux; Imam Naeem Chaudry of Courneuve; Imam Mohamed Azizi of Issy-les-Moulineaux; Diana Toutou, head of the Islamic community of Stains; Imam Houzi Akbaghali of Roissy-en-Brie; and Imam Bentounes Azizi of Souffis. Also present was Rabbi Michel Serfaty, president of the Jewish-Muslim Friendship Society of France.

At last week’s meeting in New York between Noam Shalit and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, and with the participation of Congressman Carson, Rabbi Schneier agreed to facilitate a meeting between Noam Shalit and prominent French Muslim leaders who have worked closely with the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding’s global efforts in strengthening relations with the Muslim community, spearheaded by the foundation and the World Jewish Congress.