Merah’s Sister Declares She is “Proud” of Her Brother, New Controversy Ensues

Manuel Valls condemned Souad Merah’s declarations about her brother.
Photo: Flickr.com/fondapol

PARIS — In a recent article for La Jeune Politique, Sophie Prach declared firmly that, “in true French fashion, the Merah case will neither be forgiven nor forgotten.” Her statement could not be truer today, as the quote rightfully states, Mohamed Merah’s sister has become the center of a political turmoil.

In March 2012, Mohamed Merah shot down three children as well as Rabbi Jonathan Sandler in front of the Jewish school, Ozar Hatorah, in Toulouse, shortly after having killed three soldiers in the neighboring city of Montauban. His family, especially his brothers and his sister, since the scandal, has drawn the attention of many journalists and investigators.

Merah’s older brother Abdelghani was part of a documentary broadcasted on November 11 in the show Enquête Exclusive for the TV channel M6. Abdelghani’s intention was to show the religious radicalism and violence of his family, which he claims to be full of “hatred and racism” in the attempt to distinguish himself from them.

To prove his claims, Abdelghani trapped Merah’s sister, Souad Merah, and videotaped her against her will, saying that she was “proud” of what her brother had done. According to her, “he has fought to the end,” and also expressed a liking for bin Laden and having “positive thoughts” about him. She then openly confirmed her anti-semitism, stating that “the Jews, those who are slaughtering Muslims, I hate them!”

In the same documentary, Souad admits her lies to the police, including her claims about not knowing that her brother had not only been to Algeria, but that he had also been to Pakistan. She even admitted having paid for his tickets to go to Pakistan. The lawyers of the three soldiers who were Merah’s victims immediately demanded Souad’s prosecution.

Considering that the Merah case has been such a sensitive topic, the rapid reactions following the release of the documentary on the case do not come as a surprise. An official investigation was triggered the day after the broadcasting, with the purpose being to “verify the circumstances in which the declaration was made, as it could be considered as an apology of terrorism offense.”

Manuel Valls, Minister of the Interior, firmly condemned the declarations. Jean-François Copé, chief of the opposition and General Secretary of the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), denounced these “dishonorable words.” According to him, “when Souad Merah calls herself ‘proud’ of the actions of a man who cowardly murdered innocents, including defenseless children, she sullies the memory of the victims, she adds suffering to the mourning of their relatives, she glorifies violence and terrorism … Mohamed Merah is nothing but a barbaric murderer.”

Marine Le Pen, president of the Front National (FN), known for her firm positions on immigration and Islam, stated that Souad Merah was nothing short of the “the tip of a salafist iceberg.” Salafism is a radical Islamic movement that sometimes advocates the use of violence against civilians, as it has done in the streets of Tunis. Le Pen considers that there are “thousands of French people or foreigners on French territory that are Salafists and consider Mohamed Merah a hero.” She then noted that one could find “around a number of blocks, inscriptions on the wall celebrating his glory.” For Le Pen, “there are many other more serious actions that Mohamed Merah’s sister should be blamed for.”

Louis Aliot, vice president of the FN, was even tougher in his words. He summoned the French government to find out “whether Mrs. Merah was a French” citizen, and, in that case, that it was necessary to “study the conditions of acquisition of [this] citizenship and start a procedure to take the citizenship away from her, and send her back to her country.”

Alexane Piqueaud, a law student in Toulouse, where some of the killings occurred, has shared her opinion on the matter. Alexane does not support Souad’s declarations, nor does she support the way her brother forced her into giving them. She denounced the “sensationalism” surrounding the case and thinks that the way that the media has covered it “fuels the tensions.” She was not surprised by the declaration though, since “to her knowledge, she (Merah’s sister) has never blamed her brother. ”Alexane rightly point out that “she was more radical than him.”

Alexane also commented on Louis-Aliot’s proposition to expel Souad from France. As someone studying law, Alexane questions whether this is possible. In her opinion, “it would apply to her only if she had become French after her birth.” Then, “one would need, in that case, a conviction for crime or offense … an infringement of fundamental rights or an act of terrorism.” Another possibility could be that Souad “engaged herself, to the benefits of a foreign state, into actions that would be incompatible with French citizenship.” If Souad were to be expelled, according to Alexane, it would set a precedent that would apply to all similar acts, something Alexane considers impossible.

Julien Myaut, who also lives in Toulouse, considers that, despite the fact that Merah’s sister claims to speak as a Muslim, her words will not have a negative impact on the French Muslim community. According to Julien, “the only persons who would react [to it] with hatred towards the Muslims would be those who already foster such hatred … to be clear, it may comfort the islamophobes, but sensible individuals will not make it a generalization.”

However, such hopes might be disappointed considering that Merah’s case has agitated the French political arena for over a month now.  Merah’s killings have created a wound in the French social body that has not yet begun to recover from it. Or perhaps such wounds were already wide open.

Trackbacks

  1. […] On March 17, François Hollande was in Toulouse for the first anniversary of Mohammed Merah’s murders in the French southern cities of Montauban and Toulouse. The French president delivered a speech […]

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