Lassana Bathily, the Muslim hero who risked his life saving 7 Jewish people’s life during the deadly terrorist attack in Paris has been honoured with the ‘Medal of Valor’. The Paris attacks, which took place nearly three months ago, took the lives of 12 people, including French Muslim Police Officer Ahmed Merabet.
The award was presented by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre at a National Tribute Dinner. The centre itself was set up in the memory of Simon Wiesenthal who saved Jews from from Nazi death camps during the Holocaust, making it even more fitting for the young Muslim to receive this honour. Rabbi Marvin Heir presented the award to Lassana, who is described as a religious Muslim and even supports a beard.
‘Whoever saves one life, it is as if he has saved all of humanity’
– Quran 5:32
French Muslims have since felt alienated in France with the rise of right wing extremists taking advantage of the actions of terrorists who have claimed to be Muslim. The fascists have seen a sharp rise in support in recent years however have failed to acknowledge the efforts of Lassana Bathily in saving lives or the efforts of Ahmed Merabet who lay down his own life for the country.
Muslim-Jewish relations have also seen a dip since the Gaza offensive last year which indiscriminately took the lives of 2,310 Palestinians, 70% of whom were civilians and for the most part children. Israeli Prime Minister recently made racist remarks about Arabs on the election night in Israel, which he withdrew after winning and international condemnation. He also halted the peace process after categorically stating he would never allow a Palestinian state.
The heroic actions of Lassana could have implications in easing Muslim-Jewish relations, especially for French Muslims caught up wrongly generalised with a minority of terrorists but also for non-Israeli Jews often caught up in political generalisations.
The bravest sacrifice was made by Ahmed Merabet who was brutally butchered in the street outside where the Charlie Hebdo attack took place. Ahmed was unarmed, forced to the ground and shot in the head while raising his hands.
The Charlie Hebdo attacks raised considerable debate, to read more see this link