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"The jihad is not meant for killing" Latifa Ibn Ziaten

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Her son was killed in 2012 by the jihadist Mohamed Merah in France. Latifa Ibn Ziaten goes to preach the Islam of tolerance in the abandoned suburbs of the French Republic. Interview.

In France, the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket have reopened the debate on the control of the Islamist propaganda. What should be done to prevent the French Muslim youth from being sucked by the jihadist movement? Latifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of Imad, the military murdered by Mohamed Merah in 2012 in France, has turned her suffering into a fight for life.

Through her association; IMAD For youth and peace, she works with young children of immigrants living in difficult suburbs. She listens to their problems, gives them advice ... Regularly invited to speak at colleges and high schools, she renders her vision of an Islam of peace and tolerance. And since the latest attacks, her message had even more impact.

Latifa Ibn Ziaten points out the confinement of cities and lack of trained imams in France, but calls especially to more presence alongside the suburban youth, set aside.

What do you say to young people who confide in you about being attracted to jihad?

Latifa Ibn Ziaten: First I explain what Jihad really means... For me it's a lot of things, when you have to help someone, get up in the morning to go to school, work for your future... Jihad is not meant to kill. What I do for young people in high schools, it is a jihad. A fight for living together. Islam is an Islam of peace, respect, love and tolerance. Religion is exploited by extremists and the problem is that these young people know nothing about Islam. They are left to themselves, fragile, uneducated, and easily recovered by jihadists. This is not Islam, but a cult. Imams must be trained to work in French mosques, with good translations into French, so that young people can understand.

What should be done to prevent them from being indoctrinated by the radical Islamist movement?

We need more teachers, better trained imams, associations that are closer to the youth to help them and supervise them, and especially to get them out of their city. The problem is that families live in the closed cities, even the school is there. They do not even need to get out, everything is in there. We must live with the values and culture of the country we live in, except that an isolated city, it's like a prison. This is not normal. They live in it as if "outside" of France, they are two different worlds. We need to help these young people, listen to them and give them a chance. When a child is having difficulties at school or becomes violent, do not set him aside and punish him all the time, without knowing why he acts like this. We must support them and give them courage.

When I hear words from the mouths of children, such as "The Republic does not like me, I am rejected by society, I have no luck at school because my parents cannot help me with my homework. I do not know my identity. Anyway, they don’t like my identity or my origins. I am French but not for them, for anyone. I do not know what I am "... it hurts. The problem is deeper.

So this is basically a search for identity?

Of course! A young person does not know who he is. Between what he saw in his family and the reality outside his city, there are two completely different worlds. At home, they even talk in another language. If the transition from one world to the other is not with good company, he may lose his path. For their dual culture to become a wealth, it requires dialogue, transmission. He must be able to travel on vacation, the family must be brought closer and he needs to discover the origins of his parents. It is not good to stay home with his nostalgia.

I was able to bring young people to Morocco during a 10-day stay ... Their eyes shone, it was wonderful, they were joyful. When I asked them what they had learned from this trip, this is what I heard: "I have learned to live with each other, to know love, to see how families share, even when they are poor ... they are rich at heart. "This gives me a lot of courage to hear that, and I think it's the same for them. They realize what their origins really are and just how it happens elsewhere.

What is your advice to parents worried about their children?

You have to give a good basis for your children so they do not go on the wrong path. This requires rules but it’s mainly through dialogue. The mother, she is the pillar of the house, she must stay close to her children, and take advantage of the evening meal for dialogue ... Everything is here, in this presence and listening.

It is useless to buy expensive games and designer clothes; they need love, attention and listening. When we see that the child is isolated, that he’s down, locked up in his room and in front of his computer, ask him what he did ... To feel that something is happening you have to stay close. It is important not to give up, for them, for our children.

This article was originally published in Telquel magazine and was translated from French.

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