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Muslim Police Officer Buried Amid Fears of Backlash in France

  • Lisa Bryant

People carry the coffin of slain police officer Ahmed Merabet after a funeral service at the Bobigny Mosque, east of Paris, Jan. 13, 2015.

People carry the coffin of slain police officer Ahmed Merabet after a funeral service at the Bobigny Mosque, east of Paris, Jan. 13, 2015.

Hundreds attended the funeral of a French Muslim police officer slain during last week's shootings at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.

Police and members of the Muslim community packed the Muslim cemetery of Bobigny, outside Paris, where Ahmed Merabet was laid to rest. The crowd applauded as police and civilians took turns digging his grave on a grey and windy day.

Fred Bove, wearing the beard of a devout Muslim, played sports with Merabet. He said the slain police officer was a kind, smiling man. Merabet's death has shaken him, especially the way he died.

Merabet was among three policemen slain by jihadists during a spate of terrorist attacks last week that killed 17 people. A video circulating on the Internet showed him being shot in the head outside the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Charlie Hebdo's first issue since the attack comes out Wednesday. Once again the satirical magazine features a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad on its cover - shedding a tear and clutching a sign saying "I am Charlie."

Accountant Robert Lobe, who attended the funeral to show solidarity as a fellow Muslim, has not yet seen it. But he supports free expression.

'No matter whether you are Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Atheist, you should stand up together as a people and show no one will separate us from each other," said Lobe.

Merabet's brother has denounced the assailants and extremism, saying Islam is a religion of love. Along with "I am Charlie," many French have also been tweeting "I am Ahmed" in solidarity.

But authorities have counted dozens of attacks and threats against mosques and other Muslim symbols in recent days. Abdellah Zekri, who heads the Observatory Against Islamophobia, says there is mounting racism and hatred against Muslims in France.

"We Muslims demonstrated against terrorism," he says, "but unfortunately there are people who consider all Muslims terrorists and criminals," says Zekri.

Muslim Abdel Fatah, who attended Merabet's funeral with his friends, says he has not been attacked, but people look at him strangely these days. Women he knows who wear hijabs are afraid to go outside.

Fatah says Muslims like himself just want to live, work, and go to the mosque, and have normal lives, like all French citizens.

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