(JTA) — Prosecutors in France have launched an investigation for incitement against a senior Muslim cleric from Toulouse who recited anti-Semitic religious passages and predicted Israel’s destruction.
On Tuesday, the Toulouse Prosecutor’s Office opened the probe against Mohamed Tatai, the imam of the newly inaugurated Grand Mosque of Toulouse and the leader of an interfaith dialogue group, the Sud Ouest daily reported.
In a sermon delivered on Dec. 15, 2017, Tatai recited a Muslim text, called a Hadith, stating that on Judgment Day, the Muslims will kill the Jews.
In June, the France chapter of the B’nai B’rith group condemned on Twitter the statements by Tatai, who told listeners that the Prophet Muhammad “told us about the final and decisive battle: ‘Judgement Day will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews. The Jews will hide behind the stones and the trees, and the stones and the trees will say: Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him – except for the Gharqad tree, which is one of the trees of the Jews.’”
He also said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “afraid that Israel would not live longer than 76 years – as is written in the prophecies.” Tatai then said that an Israeli journalist, whom he did not name, said the 2016 funeral of Israeli President Shimon Peres was “the funeral of Israel.’”
JTA was not able to verify or locate either of the quotes referenced by Tatai.
Toulouse Prosecutor Dominique Alzeari wrote in a document connected to the investigation that “after verifying the facts connected to the dissemination of the sermon,” including with a certified translation of it from Arabic, his office opened an investigation for alleged “public verbal provocation to hatred or violence because of [the victim’s] origins, ethnicity, nationality, race or religion.”
The video of the Arabic-language sermon was posted in December on the YouTube channel of the Grand Mosque of Toulouse. The Middle East Media Research Institute translated the video and posted it on its website.
Tatai is the president of the Circle for Civil Dialogue, a nonprofit whose mission is to “facilitate dialogue between citizens on a social-cultural level, educationally and through sports.” On Saturday he led the inauguration ceremony of the city’s new and largest mosque, a $7.5 million building, where he serves as the most prominent imam.
During the inauguration ceremony, which included the release of white doves, Tatai said the mosque will serve “to instill the values of peace” and as a “bulwark against extremism.”
In a July interview for the La Dépêche du Midi daily, Tatai said the video “takes what I said out of context.” He told the daily that during the sermon, he also said that “we must do everything not to arrive” at a Muslim-Jewish war, but the assertion was not recorded in the video.
In 2012, a jihadist killed four Jews — a rabbi and three children — at a Jewish school in Toulouse.