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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora