France 2016:The endangered life of Zineb El Rhazoul

You can criticize Islam if you live with military guards 24/7 for the rest of your life

Giulio Meotti

OpEds giulio meott
giulio meott
צילום: עצמי

"Many of my friends ask me: ‘Why don’t you change what you are doing?’. I tell them that if I stop being what I am it would be as if they had also killed me on January 7, 2015”. This is how Zineb El Rhazoui speaks to me. French newspapers call her “the most protected woman in France”.

Zineb has more bodyguards than many ministers of the government of Manuel Valls. She changed houses in Paris often in recent months for security reasons. “In the heart of Europe, I have to live under police protection for exercising a right, that of freedom of expression”, continues Zineb. “Meanwhile, French citizens come and go from Syria without anyone who stops them. Well, I will also not stop”.

In a video, a masked man declares that “the lions will not close eyes until they will separate your head from your body” - hers. 
Walking down the street in Paris or taking the metro has become unthinkable for this journalist born in Casablanca, who for five years worked at the French weekly Charlie Hebdo.

In a video, a masked man declares that “the lions will not close eyes until they will separate your head from your body” - hers. 

“Il faut tuer Zineb El Rhazoui pour venger the Prophete”. You have to kill Zineb El Rhazoui to avenge the Prophet, reads a fatwa put out afterJanuary 7.

Photos of Zineb in an orange jumpsuit, like a prisoner to be executed by ISIS, have appeared on Islamist websites, together with the location of her house and reports of her activities. Dozens of Islamist sites have posted the fatwa against Zineb.  

Zineb taught at Cairo University, before returning to Morocco. There she wrote a dissertation on Muslims who convert to Christianity. Then she started to write for the Journal Hebdomadaire, an independent Francophone newspaper. With the “Arab Spring”, the repression became harder to bear and Zineb decided to leave Casablanca for Slovenia, where she was granted asylum by the International Cities of Refugees Network, which gives shelter to persecuted writers and journalists. She then moved to Paris, where she met the editor of the weekly Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane Charbonnier. They co-wrote the “Life of Mohammed”.

Now Zineb El Rhazoui, pregnant with her first child, a son who she says “will be born in seclusion” and guarded by police, has published a book called “13” (Ring Editions). “Many people after the massacre of Charlie justified the attack,” explains Zineb. “They said ‘neither Charlie nor terrorism’. My colleagues deserved all this? Ok. But Frédéric Boisseau, the guy cleaning the Charlie’s building, maybe he deserved to die too?. After the attack of November 13 it was difficult for these people to still blame Charlie Hebdo. Islamist violence and hatred are blind, they do not discriminate. We can not negotiate with terrorism." 

"After Charlie Hebdo I said we can not stop depicting the Prophet, this is where the line between civilization and barbarism is drawn. If we agree to stop talking about Islam, they will not stop attacking the West. Then they will say that we eat during Ramadan and they will kill us for that. We can not negotiate every detail of our freedom." 

"At Charlie Hebdo we were accustomed to [verbal] attacks, but after the massacre the thing that made me hopeless and bitter were those media, such as The New York Times, which did not release the cover of the issue . All those people had been slaughtered for a cartoon and these journalists are refusing to publish another cartoon? Perhaps the terrorists were right to do what they did. After 2006, at Charlie Hebdo we asked ourselves: ‘What will other journalists do?’. We were left alone nine years later”.  

France seems to live in denial of the threat: “Totally. The President of the Republic Hollande said they are not Muslims but criminals. We have this ideology that refuses to name Islam. La Gauche, the left, feel obliged to be nice with Islam. We live in a secular and democratic republic that should not recognize the communitarianism, but only citizens." 

"Instead, they use this incredible accusation of ‘Islamophobia’, which is an intellectual impostor invented by the Iranian mullahs to close the mouths of those who criticize Islam. If you criticize Islam in Muslim countries they imprison you, they attack you physically, they process you, they kill you. In a democracy, if you criticize Islam they accuse you of ‘Islamophobia’. These are two sides of the same coin”.  

How do you remember “Charb”, the murdered director at the weekly? “He was a fighter. He said if we do not fight for freedom, one day we will have a society where we will feel like in a prison. They shot him in the head”.  

Charlie Hebdo’s editorial of March 30 is titled “How did we end up here?”. It concludes by explaining that terrorism that hit Paris and Brussels is only the final part of a process which requires not to talk, not to contradict and to avoid the debate. “The attacks are the tip of a large iceberg. The final stage of a process of intimidation and silence which started a long time ago”. 

Zineb El Rhazoui will not give up. “I have one of the highest protection in France”, she concludes the interview. “Life has changed, you have to think about everything you do, like taking a coffee with friends and organize yourself first with the security team. I live in a walking prison, but I feel more free than those who threaten me. They have a prison in their head!" 

"There will be more terrorist attacks on European soil. We can not pretend to make war in Raqqa and not fight the Islamist ideology that we have among us. The problem is not in Syria, but in our country, the killers are here, in the lanes between our houses. The Islamist ideology of the Islamic State existed before and will exist after the destruction of the Islamic State.

"There are imams in France who say that those who listen to music are monkeys. Terrorism is born from this ideology. And as long as we continue to lie to ourselves we will receive more terror attacks.”