France’s Muslim community mourns victims of mass shootings: NPR

Madjid Messaoudene is a member of the city council of Saint Denis, a predominantly Muslim suburb of Paris. He speaks with Renée Montagne about his relationship with two Charlie Hebdo Staff.



RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Among the millions of French people who follow this drama, there are many Muslims. Nearly 10% of the French population is considered Muslim. They are mostly immigrants from the former French colonies or their children. Some are practicing Muslims. For others, like our next guest, they have a Muslim identity by heritage. His name is Madjid Messaoudène. He is a municipal councilor in the predominantly Muslim suburb of Saint-Denis, in the suburbs of Paris.

Hello and thank you for joining us.

MADJID MESSAOUDENE: Hello.

MONTAGNE: Let me start by asking you about your neighbors in Saint-Denis and how they reacted to the murders. What do you mean?

MESSAOUDENE: Well, yesterday there was a big gathering in front of La Tutelaire de Saint-Denis (ph). Muslims are not – are of course upset and sad about what happened. It’s not about religion. It has nothing to do with Islam. It’s a crime.

The problem is that many people make the connection between these two pillars and the Muslim population. We faced at least three attacks yesterday against mosques or Muslim-owned shops. So we are afraid of what could happen in the next few days. Some say Islam is a threat, not suitable for democracy. And the vast majority of Muslims in France only want to live their lives freely.

MONTAGNE: Well, clearly Muslims are not monolithic in general, not monolithic in France. But these alleged killers and other attacks suggest there is a strain of extreme Islam in the population, albeit in small numbers. What has been said within the Muslim community in terms of condemning these attacks?

MESSAOUDENE: I am not comfortable with the idea that the Muslim people should be asked to prove that they condemn what happened, to prove that they are against violence, to prove that they is for democracy. We don’t have – I don’t have to apologize for what happened two days ago. For me, the two killers who killed 12 people two days ago are not Muslims. They…

MONTAGNE: They are not Muslims according to you.

MESSAOUDENE: No, for me, they are not Muslims. You cannot kill someone in the name of Islam or in the name of another religion. So they are not Muslims. They are fanatics. And we don’t have to lump all Muslims together.

MONTAGNE: I understand that the Charlie Hebdo massacre seems to have a particular resonance for you because I understand that you know two members of the staff. What was your relationship like?

MESSAOUDENE: Yeah, yeah. I knew Bernard Maris in particular, who was called Uncle Bernard in the newspaper. He taught me economics in college. He was a very good man. He was very smart, very smart, and I also knew Charb, who was the head of the paper now.

MOUNTAIN: Charbonnier, the…

MESSAUDEN: Yes. Yes, Stéphane Charbonnier. I’ve met him several times, and we have debates with him about Charlie Hebdo’s treatment of Islam. I disagreed.

MONTAGNE: Did you think the cartoons insulted Islam?

MESSAOUDENE: Yeah. I think you can’t draw the prophet knowing that, to Muslims, the huge insult it can do, without thinking about the context in which you live. I mean if he drew the same drawing 15 or 20 years ago, maybe things would have been different. As for Charlie Hebdo, it has become a huge weapon of destruction of religion. They…

MONTAGNE: Did you say that, though? Did you tell your friend Stéphane Charbonnier who was running…

MESSAOUDENE: Yeah. Yes, I told him…

(TRANSPARENCY)

MONTAGNE: Did you think it was OK for him to do that, though — freedom of speech?

MESSAOUDENE: He continued, yeah.

MONTAGNE: Did you think he had the right to do that, regardless of your opinion?

MESSAOUDENE: Yes, of course. I never asked for censorship of Charlie Hebdo. But what I told him was that he couldn’t do what he wanted without taking into account what the Muslim community in France was facing. Islam cannot justify what happened two days ago. The Muslims I know are afraid. They are afraid of living in such a violent world and such a difficult world for the Muslim people.

MONTAGNE: It’s Madjid Messaoudène. He is a member of the city council of the predominantly Muslim Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis. We will follow events in and around Paris throughout the day.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And we’re picking up on that done perfect as we go along, just to review what we know happened this morning. At around 8.30am this morning – that’s Paris time – a woman had her car stolen from two gunmen, who she says were the two known suspects in the shooting – the Paris massacre earlier this week. These two men would now be locked up in an industrial building well outside of Paris. It’s a possible hostage-taking. Prosecutors described with more certainty a hostage situation in another eastern Paris neighborhood where a gunman set up shop in a kosher market and allegedly took several hostages there. Authorities point to evidence that the two situations are linked. We’ll bring you more as we find out here on NPR News’ MORNING EDITION.

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