Muslim daughter of terror victim: I fear Isis and racists in France

AFP - [email protected] • 27 Mar, 2017 Updated Mon 27 Mar 2017 16:08 CEST
Muslim daughter of terror victim: I fear Isis and racists in France

Hanane Charrihi never felt shunned by the country of her birth until a radical drove a truck through a crowd celebrating France's national holiday in Nice, killing 86 people, including her mother.


Born in the Riviera city to Moroccan parents, the 27-year-old was still trying to come to terms with her loss when she suffered the added ignominy of being told she was no longer welcome in France -- as she grieved at the site of the carnage.
The incident, one of several involving Muslims in Nice recorded in the days after the July 14 attack, highlighted a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment in France after the third major jihadist attack in a year and a half.
In an interview with AFP, Charrihi, who wears a headscarf, said the taunts she endured that day left her doubly scarred.
"I'm living in fear of Daesh (the Islamic State group) like everyone else, but also in fear of racists," said the young author, who has written an ode to her mother, country and religion titled "Ma Mere Patrie" (My Motherland).
"When I take the metro in Paris, I stay away from the edge. I'm terrified someone might give me a push."
France's presidential election has upped the ante, she said, accusing candidates on the right and far right of "hounding" Muslims in speeches that conflate Islam and terrorism.
"It's a turbo-charged race," she said. "If you put a bit of Islam in the tank, it goes faster, because everyone is afraid of Daesh."
'We don't want you here' 
Charrihi said she first noticed a shift in attitudes toward Muslims, particularly those wearing headscarves, after the January 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a magazine that had printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
On trips into Paris from the suburb where she lives with her husband and two boys, she drew stares -- even if most were "out of curiosity rather than unkindness".
It was in her native Nice that she came face-to-face with blatant racism.
As thousands of mourners gathered to pay tribute to the dead on July 18 on the seafront avenue where the massacre took place, a man on his way to the beach with a deckchair harangued Charrihi and her sisters who had come to lay flowers at the site.
"We don't want any more of that here. We don't want you here anymore," he told them.
As the women were leaving, another man taunted them.
"So you move in packs now?" he asked, adding heartlessly, when learning that their mother was among the victims: "Good! That's one less."
Charrihi accuses the news media of abetting the prejudice by focusing on a radicalised minority that "does not represent all French Muslims".
"They interview 16-year-old imbeciles who speak rubbish," said Charrihi, a trained pharmacy assistant who defends an Islam "of peace, respect and tolerance", including the right for Charlie Hebdo's cartoonists to savage Islam and other religions with their pencils.
Buoyed by hundreds of messages of support, she and her siblings have set up an association to deter young people from radical Islam and promote unity -- following the example of Latifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of a soldier who was among seven people killed by Mohamed Merah in Toulouse in 2012, who has become a peace ambassador.
Charrihi said her book and association were her way of fighting back against the IS group, which claimed the Nice attack as the work of one of its "soldiers".
"Dividing us is exactly what Daesh wants," she said. "I lost the person who is most dear to me... This is my way of taking revenge."


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