French Town Struggles Over Departures for Jihad

LUNEL, FRANCE: When this picturesque southern French town of just 25,700 people first learned late last year that six local Muslims had been killed fighting for Islam in Syria, accounting for 10 percent of the total number of French killed there, the right-wing mayor quietly asked the head of the local mosque for help.

“I need you and you need me to stop this,” the mayor, Claude Arnaud, recalled telling Lahoucine Goumri, who was president of Lunel’s Al Baraka mosque at the time. “We agreed he would make a statement.”

He did. But instead of condemning the surge of young recruits, Goumri told local news media that the policies of President Francois Hollande were the main culprit and complained that it was not his job to denounce the jihadis when nobody protested French citizens who traveled to Israel to help the army “kill Palestinian babies.”

“This is their choice,” Goumri was quoted as saying at the time by the newspaper Midi Libre. “It is not for me to judge them.”