In France's Muslim Community, Stories Of Heroism, And Some Fear : Parallels Muslims were among the first people at the scene of last week's attacks in Paris. An employee of the kosher supermarket saved hostages, and a policeman died responding to the Charlie Hebdo shootings.
NPR logo

In France's Muslim Community, Stories Of Heroism, And Some Fear

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/376764562/376788892" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
In France's Muslim Community, Stories Of Heroism, And Some Fear

In France's Muslim Community, Stories Of Heroism, And Some Fear

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/376764562/376788892" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

There have been dozens of bomb threats and vandalism at mosques across France since last week's terrorist attacks by gunmen claiming allegiance to radical Islam. Yet, some of the first people on the scene of the Paris attacks were Muslims. From Paris, Lauren Frayer has this story of heroism by one Muslim and fear among France's Muslim population.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: When Lassana Bathily escaped from a kosher supermarket under siege here Friday, police at first thought he was the assailant. They forced him to the ground and handcuffed him. Bathily is a 24-year-old Muslim immigrant from Mali with the same skin color as the gunman.

LASSANA BATHILY: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "An hour and a half they kept me cuffed," Bathily told French TV, "until one of my colleagues who wasn't working that day came and told them who I am." Bathily works at the kosher market. He was in a basement storeroom near a walk-in refrigerator when a gunman burst in upstairs.

BATHILY: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "I opened the door to the fridge and rushed some of the shoppers inside," he said, "then I turned off the light and closed the door behind us. I told them to stay calm and then I went back out. Bathily managed to escape through a delivery shaft. After police finally believed him, he gave them a key to open the store's metal shutters and make their assault. Four Jewish hostages died, but many of those who survived say Bathily helped to save them.

BATHILY: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "I didn't know or care if they were Jews or Christians or Muslims," he said. "We're all in the same boat." More than 55,000 people have signed an online petition calling on French president Francois Hollande to grant automatic citizenship to Bathily for his heroism. He's being compared to Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman shot dead responding to the Charlie Hebdo attacks.

MALEK MERABET: (Foreign language spoken).

FRAYER: "My brother was a Muslim," said Malek Merabet, the slain policeman's brother. "He was killed by people who pretend to be Muslims." Like the Merabet family, Muslim leaders worldwide have condemned the Paris attacks. I visited the city's Grand Mosque where there was no extra security. I walked right in and met the grand mufti, Dalil Boubakeur.

DALIL BOUBAKEUR: This is a criminal action. They are criminal people and their actions - very bad for Muslim people, with risks of violence against Islam, against Muslims.

FRAYER: Today France's Central Council of Muslims said there have been more than 50 shootings and bomb threats at mosques across the country since last week. Maarten van de Donk works for an E.U.-funded group that helps fight radicalization in the Muslim suburbs of Paris. His group is dealing with a flood of calls from people who suddenly think their Muslim neighbors might be radicals.

MAARTEN VAN DE DONK: That's already happening. But you also see on the social media is that a lot of people are overreacting and people relate what happened in Paris to all Muslims in Europe.

FRAYER: Outside the now-empty Charlie Hebdo offices where Wednesday's massacre took place, Parisians have piled up flowers. Among those lighting a candle was Pierre Hakim, who's half French and half Algerian.

PIERRE HAKIM: My mother is a Christian, my nanny when I was a child was Jewish, and I'm Muslim. That's all we must believe - together.

FRAYER: But he says he's afraid for the future. France for him has always been a country of tolerance, and he says these attacks have shattered that feeling.

For NPR News I'm Lauren Frayer in Paris.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.