During a December 21, 2018, interview on France 24 Arabic TV, French-Moroccan journalist Zineb El Rhazoui discussed death threats she received and violent comments that were made about her after she had said on TV that Islam must learn to accept criticism, abide by French law, and reject extremist ideology. El Rhazoui defended her statement, saying that it is perfectly reasonable and that it is shameful that those who attacked her are people from the same background as her who enjoy rights in France that they would not enjoy in Arab countries. She criticized the minority of people who perceive themselves as eternal victims and who use an ideology of death to break the law and harm others. She added: "I hope that they liberated themselves from [their] black ideological cloud... I wish them a happy new year, and may the law be enforced in their case." She also said that she hopes the Islamic world will one day be freed from its ignorance and backwardness and be able to enjoy culture, enlightenment, and prosperity. El Rhazoui was a columnist for the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and was in Morocco when the January 2015 terror attack against the magazine took place.
Following are excerpts:
TV Host Taoufik Mjaied: What you said on the French CNews TV channel has caused you a lot of trouble in recent days: "Islam must accept criticism and humor, and it must abide by the laws of the republic and by French law. We cannot overcome that [extremist] ideology when we keep telling people that Islam is the religion of peace and love." Does this merit death threats?
Zineb El Rhazoui: You see, Taoufik, this sentence – in my view – is the epitome of reason, and it is no different than what was said by Averroes and by the philosophers of enlightenment in France. It is no different from what millions of people on this planet believe. However, this sentence caused a tidal wave of explicit death threats…
Taoufik Mjaied: Like what?
Zineb El Rhazoui: Like, "She deserves a bullet between her eyes," "She deserves to be raped," "She deserves to be slaughtered," not to mention all the curses and all the slanderous insults targeting my honor and the honor of my family, and all the racist slurs… Every time I have faced racist curses in France, it has been by people named Muhammad, Mustafa, Ibrahim, or Ali. It has always been from people who share my background. They would curse me, saying: "You are Moroccan, go back to your country." "You are an Arab", "You are willing to do anything in order to assimilate in France." They are unaware of the fact that I am French because my mother is French. I am proud to be French, to be part of this country, and to respect its laws.
In 2015, in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo, I received a lot of electronic fatwas and threats in Arabic from anonymous people, who claimed they were with ISIS in Syria or whatever… This time around, things are different. This time, they are French youth, who are our fellow countrymen. They enjoy the rights that we, unfortunately, do not have in the Arab countries, yet they believe that I said something that I should be killed for. Is this not disgraceful? Is this not shameful? We all deplore this. How low have we stooped? Has it become a crime and an insult to Muslims to say that Islam needs to abide by the laws of the country and that it must be subject to criticism, humor, and reason?
The support [I have received] proves that most French citizens oppose these things, but there is a minority that in the name of the ideology of death, and because it perceives itself to be an eternal victim of racism, takes the liberty to break the law, to threaten to kill people, to use racist slurs against them, to curse them, and to harm their lives, reputations, and honor.
To tell you the truth, I am not one of the people who always find justifications for those who defend the ideology of terrorism, violate the law, send death threats, and harm the lives of others. As far as I am concerned, such people are guilty, and they should be dealt with in accordance with the law. I do not wish them death the way they wish me death. I hope that they liberate themselves from the black ideological cloud that covers their minds. I hope that they will learn to love the other, like we do, and to enjoy happy citizenship in this country and elsewhere in the world. I hope that they become liberated, educate themselves, and read some beneficial books. I wish them a happy new year, and may the law be enforced in their case.
I am a reasonable person and I hope that one day the Islamic world will be freed from this ignorance and backwardness, and that it will one day enjoy enlightenment, culture, and prosperity.