News

    French Jews, Muslims Struggle to Understand Toulouse Shootings

    A mourner reacts during a joint funeral in Jerusalem for the victims of Monday's shooting in Toulouse, March 21, 2012.
    A mourner reacts during a joint funeral in Jerusalem for the victims of Monday's shooting in Toulouse, March 21, 2012.
    Lisa Bryant

    As French police surround a suspect in a string of shootings in southern France, Jews and Muslims are grappling with the horrific events that have touched their communities.

    Children spill out of the Beth Hanna Jewish school in northeastern Paris under a spring sun and the watchful eyes of armed police. Parents, including men sporting the trademark black hat of Hasidic Jews, crowd the sidewalk to greet them. Lea Chicheportiche, a mother of five, is also here.

    Like many, Chicheportiche's thoughts are fixed hundreds of kilometers away - on the southern French city of Toulouse, where a motorcycle gunman killed three children and a rabbi at another Jewish school. Police believe the killer is also responsible for the shooting deaths of three French soldiers last week, including two Muslims.

    Chicheportiche says the events are distressing. She believes the killer is racist because he shot dead both Muslims and Jews. She spoke hours before police closed in on a suspect, a 24-year-old man who claims links to al-Qaida and had been training in southern Afghanistan. French authorities say he wanted to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children in the Middle East.

    The killings have shaken the nation. The French government has notched up the terrorism alert in the Toulouse region to its highest level. French President Nicolas Sarkozy briefly suspended his presidential campaign, as did several of his challengers. Security has been reinforced around religious institutions and schools like Beth Hanna.

    Both the soldiers and the Jewish victims were buried Wednesday, in separate ceremonies in France and Israel. Sarkozy also met with representatives of France's Muslim and Jewish communities, the largest in Western Europe.

    Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sarkozy said the nation must be united, it cannot cede to violence or stereotyping. He said France cannot confront such an event unless the nation is united - it owes it to the victims.

    Like elsewhere across France, people in this Paris neighborhood are grappling to understand the horrific killings.

    Rabbi Mendel Azimov helps oversee Beth Hanna school, which his father founded. Eight of his children go to the establishment, which runs from nursery through high school. He knows the families of the Toulouse victims.

    "It's not only a community problem, it's not only a religious problem, it's a national problem - and even… an international problem," he said. "Every family, the kids, the population is very shocked about it. And we hope that justice will be done like the president [Sarkozy] promised."

    The shootings have cast a cloud over an election season already checkered by sharp exchanges on immigration and religion - notably controversy over Jewish and Muslim ritual animal slaughtering practices. Some believe the horrific events will draw the two communities closer.

    But Victor Levy, who owns an office supply store a block from Beth Hanna, is not so sure.

    Levy does not believe the shootings will help to unite French Muslims and Jews. He says it only increases doubts between the two communities, because each wonders if the other is racist. He says each can speak words that shock and create hatred between the two religions.

    Muslims and Jews have long been neighbors in this colorful, slightly grimy slice of Paris known as the 19th arrondissement. Halal butchers and kebab takeouts vie for customers alongside Kosher supermarkets and traditional French bakeries.

    Many Muslims and Jews here hail from the same region - North Africa. But there have been longstanding tensions over the years, often reflecting events in the far-off Middle East. Muslim youths in the neighborhood occasionally clash with their Jewish counterparts.

    Store owner Levy says that despite tensions, the two communities do get along. He is Jewish. A good friend is an Iraqi Muslim. But he fears the events in Toulouse might inflame things.

    But across the street, Muslim laundry store-owner Biguejda Driss mourns the Jewish deaths in Toulouse.

    Driss, who is of Moroccan origin, says it is not normal that someone should kill children.

    At Beth Hanna, Rabbi Azimov is focusing on healing.

    "We have a special tradition that says that when bad things happen, you have to add on kindness and goodness and prayer," he said, "we have a belief that when you have light, darkness disappears."

    Muslim and Jewish leaders are organizing a remembrance march for the Toulouse victims in Paris on Sunday. They say the march makes no sense unless it is done jointly.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
        Next 
    by: kg6
    March 26, 2012 2:56 PM
    @ steve omara
    you would have to take a national survey to decide what the people thought? I am not so sure that if you took a national england survey, that the majority of people would consider muslims a substantial threat because they know that the majority of muslims do not commit acts like this

    by: steve omara
    March 25, 2012 2:33 PM
    Name me a nation where immigrant Muslims have willingly united with the host populace. Name me a nation whose indigenous inhabitants actually voted to allow a Muslim immigrant flood . Name me a nation to whom muslims are not considered a growing and substantial threat.

    by: Sangre De Los Reyes
    March 22, 2012 6:42 PM
    Only the ignorant claim to understand the incomprehensible. You tell yourself you understand the motivations of a mad man because it helps you make sense of the world; it helps you sleep better. Sadly, the truth is, you know nothing. One who believes they know all that there is to know, has decided they are done growing. You, my friend, are spiritually dead.

    by: Gab, from Oriana Fallaci one decade ago quoted-
    March 22, 2012 3:34 PM
    a Muslim scholar who shocked the assembled prelates at a 1999 Vatican synod on Christian/Moslem relations: "By means of your democracy we shall invade you, by means of our religion we shall dominate you." Fallaci- The terrorists try to break our spirit, while the moderates colonize and out-breed us. Do not the Saudis, our allies, fund mosques and madrassas in Europe? Are not wealthy sheiks and emirs buying up land in Spain? Do not mullahs urge Muslim women to bear at least five children?

    by: Dr. R
    March 22, 2012 9:07 AM
    The headline of this story shows how ignorant Europeans have become. No one "struggles" to understand why these things happen. No one but the ignorant. Support extremist terrorists you get extreme terrorism. Muslims who do not support extreme terrorism need to step up and identify those that plot, plan and carryout these acts. True God fearing people would identify and report. But they don't. There is nothing noble about mankind: man is the bottom of the animal world.

    by: Eric
    March 22, 2012 7:24 AM
    Anyway, Mohammed Merah is now dead. There is therefore the need for both the Jews and the muslims within the community to strongly condemn hate speeches right from the pulpit to forestal a reoccurrence of this dastardly act.

    by: Godwin
    March 22, 2012 6:15 AM
    There would have been need to talk peace in situations like what happened in Toulouse France, as it happens in other parts of the world, especially now in Nigeria. But it becomes unnecessary and foolhardy so realizing that the muslims deliberately divided themselves in two using one part to attack purported enemies, and using the other to sympathize or disclaim. But it is one and the same islam teaching and supervising it.

    by: Gab to Gueye Cheikh of Senegal
    March 22, 2012 5:30 AM
    Besides the Iraqi liberation war, which of the other twenty two Arab Countries have Western troops killing in the name of democracy? It is just the opposite of what you are saying. There are Arab demonstrators is a dozen Arab Countries shouting "to be free in our own land" and trying to topple dictatorships. Which would you choose?

    by: Godwin
    March 22, 2012 5:10 AM
    There is nothing to understand but that islam has this kind of hatred, destruction and intolerance embedded in it. Continually having to preach the same message every time to assuage the hurt while the set-aside group remains steadfast in its determination to destroy every other thing that does not belong to islam is foolhardy. They use one group to hit you and use another to condemn the act - grand design. No good tree bears bad fruit.

    by: Yamani
    March 22, 2012 2:20 AM
    I dislike who kill innocent people whatever he is, whatever his religion is and whatever his nation is. those killers are terrorist have no nation, no religion and no humanity.
    Comments page of 2
        Next 

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    NATO to Target Migrant Smugglersi
    X
    Jeff Custer
    February 11, 2016 4:35 PM
    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video How Aleppo Rebels Plan to Withstand Assad's Siege

    Rebels in Aleppo are laying plans to withstand a siege by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the likelihood the regime cuts a final main supply line running west of the city. They vow a siege will not be over quickly. But their plans are not being helped by squabbles breaking out among insurgent commanders.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Co-Ed Selective Service Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.