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January 14, 2015 1

A French Jew Mourns a French Muslim Policeman

A guest blog by Eve Gani, Direc­tor of Inter­na­tional Affairs, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Coun­cil of French Jew­ish Insti­tu­tions (CRIF), ADL’s part­ner in France.

On Jan­u­ary 11, mil­lions of French cit­i­zens demon­strated in a his­toric moment of unity in defense of our demo­c­ra­tic free­doms.  On Jan­u­ary 13, we exer­cised one of those free­doms – free­dom of reli­gion – to bury 17 ter­ror vic­tims accord­ing to their respec­tive fam­i­lies’ reli­gious tra­di­tions, or absence of reli­gious tra­di­tion: Catholic, Jew­ish, Mus­lim, atheist.

My col­leagues at CRIF attended the Jew­ish funeral in Jerusalem and sec­u­lar funer­als in Paris.  I chose to attend the funeral of Ahmed Mer­abet, the Mus­lim police­man killed out­side the Char­lie Hebdo office.

I went with a Mus­lim friend, also a police­man.  I had met this friend a few months ago at a gala din­ner to sup­port the work of Lat­ifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of a Mus­lim sol­dier killed by Mohammed Merah, the ter­ror­ist who also mur­dered three chil­dren and a rabbi at a Jew­ish school in Toulouse. We came from two very dif­fer­ent parts of French soci­ety, but both wanted to sup­port Lat­ifa Ibn Ziaten’s work with at-risk youth.

Imme­di­ately after the Char­lie Hebdo attack, my friend called to alert me and urge us to be care­ful.  As he told me about the attack, his voice con­veyed how ner­vous he was.  A police­man had been shot dead in the street, and he wor­ried about his children’s future should the same hap­pen to him. Recall­ing that con­ver­sa­tion and the fact that a police­woman had also been shot in the interim, I knew I wanted to go with him to Ahmed Merabat’s funeral.

Funeral Procession of Ahmed Merabat

Funeral Pro­ces­sion of Ahmed Merabat

It was the first Mus­lim bur­ial I had ever attended. Dur­ing the prayers, I thought of the Mus­lim friends I have had through years, start­ing in high school. Some of them, like my Jew­ish friends, had left France. For Tunisia, Lon­don and Bal­ti­more. They all wanted to build a bet­ter life, one safe from vio­lence and all forms of hatred and bigotry.

At the bur­ial, I saw Mus­lim col­leagues of Ahmed proudly wear­ing their French Police uni­forms, lay lead­ers from Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, a priest, and a rabbi.  The prayer leader thanked the Jews for attend­ing and urged every­one to demon­strate their sol­i­dar­ity with the Jew­ish vic­tims at an event in front of the kosher super­mar­ket that was attacked.

Rec­tor Dalil Boubakeur and oth­ers from the Grand Mosque of Paris were at the funeral, and we recalled a dif­fer­ent meet­ing, not unre­lated to the Char­lie Hebdo ter­ror attack.  Three years ago, CRIF and the Grand Mosque of Paris had orga­nized an inter­faith dis­cus­sion on the topic of blas­phemy and the laws of the Repub­lic.  We under­scored our com­mon reli­gious val­ues and our com­mon com­mit­ment to the rule of law, all of which the jihadists oppose.

Trag­i­cally, Char­lie Hebdo was tar­geted because a jihadist inter­pre­ta­tion of reli­gion, incom­pat­i­ble with ours. And Ahmed, whose job was to enforce the law of the Repub­lic, was killed on the way.

I watched as Ahmed’s cof­fin was borne by my friend.  My friend who fears to be next.

To my friend,

A French Mus­lim policeman,

May your chil­dren grow up in peace, with their father, in a France, respect­ful of and safe for all.

 

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March 28, 2012 0

Jihadists Pay Tribute to French Shooter Mohammed Merah

Mem­bers of sev­eral online jihadist forums have praised Mohammed Merah for his attacks on French Jews and sol­diers. Com­ments on these forums include calls for sim­i­lar lone-wolf attacks and describe Merah’s shoot­ings as Allah’s revenge on France for its for­eign pol­icy and atti­tude toward Muslims.

Over the week­end, a video trib­ute to Merah enti­tled “The Lone Lion” also began cir­cu­lat­ing on the forums. The video begins with text com­mend­ing Merah for killing “three French sol­diers return­ing from Afghanistan” and “a Jew­ish rabbi and his chil­dren.” It also applauds him for fight­ing “the French spe­cial forces with courage until he was killed as a martyr.”

Funeral footage of Merah’s vic­tims in France and Israel is jux­ta­posed with images of bleed­ing Pales­tini­ans and videos of Israeli airstrikes car­ried out by “the ene­mies of Allah, the Jews.” This sec­tion sug­gests the type of moral equiv­a­lence that Merah claimed prompted him to under­take his attacks. 

The video also includes record­ings of Osama bin Laden speak­ing about a promised war “between us and the Jews” and of cur­rent Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, describ­ing Eng­land and the U.S. as legit­i­mate tar­gets because of the civil­ian casu­al­ties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. 

The video con­cludes with a warn­ing, appar­ently directed at French Pres­i­dent Nico­las Sarkozy, that Merah’s wave of ter­ror “is the beginning.”

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March 21, 2012 1

Toulouse Jewish Day School Shooter Linked to Banned Forsane Alizza

Update: French author­i­ties have con­firmed the death of Mohammed Merah after a 30-hour stand­off at his home. A for­mer spokesman for For­sane Alizza denied that Merah was ever a mem­ber.
 
French media is report­ing that Mohammed Merah, the sus­pect behind Monday’s deadly shoot­ing at a Jew­ish day school in Toulouse, France, has links to For­sane Alizza, a rad­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion that was banned by the French gov­ern­ment in Jan­u­ary 2012 for sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism and prepar­ing its mem­bers for “armed struggle.” 
 
Dur­ing a stand­off today between Merah and French author­i­ties, Merah report­edly said he is a mem­ber of Al Qaeda and that he car­ried out the attacks as revenge for Pales­tin­ian chil­dren and as a reac­tion to French mil­i­tary inter­ven­tion over­seas. Merah, a French cit­i­zen of Alger­ian decent, has also been linked to two ear­lier attacks on French military.
 
For­sane Alizza (Ara­bic for “Knights of Honor”), which advo­cates a Salafist ide­ol­ogy that rejects democ­racy, sought to recruit mem­bers with mar­tial arts train­ing. “We are look­ing for all kinds of skills but sol­diers above all,” read a state­ment on the group’s web­site. “So if you enjoy mar­tial arts and are quick to respond when we call on you, then you are a good fit, inshal­lah [God will­ing].” The web­site, which fea­tured videos of Anwar al-Awlaki, also expressed the group’s sup­port for “mujhaideen wher­ever they are in the world.”
 
The group, which advo­cates for BDS on its web­site, orga­nized sev­eral protests against Israel in France. In Sep­tem­ber 2011, its mem­bers dis­rupted the El Al counter at Roissy air­port in Paris, shout­ing “Death to Israel!” and “Death to Jews!” In June 2010, they protested at a McDonald’s, telling cus­tomers that McDonald’s sup­ports Israel. Two mem­bers of the group were con­victed by a French court on charges of “incit­ing racial hatred” and shout­ing anti-Semitic remarks at the restau­rant. That same month, the group par­tic­i­pated in a pro-flotilla rally in Paris.
 
For­sane Alizza seems to be cur­rently oper­at­ing with “Force de Défense Musul­mane sur Inter­net.” Its stated goal is to remove online mate­ri­als that they con­sider to be offen­sive to Mus­lims and Islam and to pro­vide resources to those who are engaged in the same activ­ity. Its activ­ity is sim­i­lar to that of Rev­o­lu­tion Mus­lim, a fringe anti-Semitic Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tion that was based in New York and that attracted a rad­i­cal fol­low­ing online.
 
French author­i­ties indi­cated that Merah has been under sur­veil­lance for at least sev­eral years due to his rad­i­cal beliefs. There have also been reports that he trav­eled to Afghanistan and Pak­istan for mil­i­tant train­ing, but French author­i­ties say that they have no evi­dence that he had been in con­tact with ter­ror­ist groups.

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