Si Kaddour Benghabrit
Si Kaddour Benghabrit (سي قدور بن غبريط in Arabic) or Abdelqader Ben Ghabrit, born in Sidi Bel Abbes in Algeria in 1868, and died in Paris in 1954, was an official and founder of the Great Mosque of Paris.
Si Kaddour Benghabrit came from a prominent Andalusian family of Tlemcen. After his secondary education at the Madrasa of Algiers (Thaalibiya) and the University of al-Karaouine of Fez He started his career in Algeria, in the field of judiciary.
In 1916, he was sent to Hijaz and to facilitate the Hajj and ensure the well-being of his fellow citizens during their time in the holy places of Islam. In 1917, Si Kaddour founded the Mahkma of Algiers (civil court or qadi), the Society of Habous and the Holy Places of Islam, in order to facilitate the pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims from French North Africa. The Society acquired two hotels in Medina and Mecca for use by pilgrims.
In 1920, the Society of Habous and Holy Places of Islam established the Algiers prefecture. It intended to apply for authorization to construct an Institute and a Mosque in Paris, to have a structure to symbolize the eternal friendship of France and Islam, and memorialize the sacrifice of the tens of thousands of Muslim soldiers who died fighting in support of France during World War I, including at the Battle of Verdun. The Great Mosque of Paris was built in the 5th arrondissement, completed in 1926.
The Muslim Institute of the Paris Mosque was opened in Paris to aid all Muslims living in or visiting the area. It provided services and spiritual direction but also aided people with direct welfare if needed, as well as supporting new immigrants and acclimating them to the city.
A sophisticated man and frequenter of Parisian salons, Ben Ghabrit was dubbed "the most Parisian Muslim". During World War II and after the fall of France, Si Kaddour Ben Ghabrit worked to protect his people, both Muslims and Jews, arranging for forged papers for an estimated 100 Jews to certify them as Muslim. He also arranged to have Jewish refugees hidden in the mosque at times of German roundups, and transported by the Resistance out of the country. In addition, during the war in France, many Muslims joined the French Resistance movement.
World War II and Jews
During World War II, Si Kaddour Benghabrit saved the lives of at least five hundred Jews, including that of the Algerian singer Salim Halali, making the administrative staff grant them certificates of Muslim identity, which allowed them to avoid arrest and deportation.
In a documentary entitled Mosque of Paris, the forgotten, produced for the show Racines de France 3 in 1991, Derri Berkani reports that it was the Algerian partisans, mainly composed of workers, who had led the Jews to the Paris Mosque for protection. The mission of these Algerian partisans was to rescue and protect the British paratroopers and find them shelter. The Partisans subsequently provided assistance to Jewish families, from the families they knew, or at the request of friends, by accommodating them in the mosque, waiting for papers to be provided to get them to the Zone libre or cross the Mediterranean to the Maghreb.
The figures for the number of Jews saved by staying and the Mosque of Paris during this period differ according to the authors . Annie-Paule Derczansky, president of the l'Association des Bâtisseuses de paix, states that according to Albert Assouline, as stated in the film Berkani, 1600 people were saved. On the contrary, Alain Boyer, former head of religious affairs in the French Ministry of Interior stated that the number was closer to 500 people.
The Bâtisseuses de Paix, an association of Jewish and Muslim women working for inter-community harmony, submitted a petition in 2005 to Yad Vashem's Council to recognize that the Mosque of Paris saved many Jews between 1942 and 1944, and that Yad Vashem should thus recognize Si Kaddour Benghabrit as one of the Righteous Among the Nations. This request remains unfulfilled, as no survivors have been found; apparently the mosque had worked with false passports.
Si Kaddour Benghabrit also inspired Mohamed Fekrane in his short film Together, released in 2010. The role of the imam is played by actor Habib Kadi.
Legacy and honors
The French drama film Les hommes libres (Free Men, 2011) featured Ben Ghabrit and his work, and tells the story of Muslim contributions to the French Resistance. It starred French actor Michael Lonsdale as the Muslim rector.
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