Mohamed Merah, a 23-year-old Muslim man whose rampage caused the death of several Jewish children, a rabbi and three French paratroopers in March 2012, was raised to hate Jews. Merah approached the children and the rabbi as students arrived to begin the school day earlier this year, shooting them mercilessly. When he was finally cornered by French police, Merah was shot to death as he attempted to escape.
Mohamed Merah’s lifetime of hatred emerged in a new book written by his brother, 36-year-old Abdelghani Merah” “My brother, the terrorist,” is due out on November 13. Abdelghani Merah said in an interview with France 24 “I will explain how my parents raised [Mohamed] in an atmosphere of racism and hate before the Salafis [ultraconservative Muslims] could douse [him] in religious extremism.” The Merah family hails from North Africa and would therefore, ostensibly, not be a party to the conflict between Palestinian Muslims and terrorists with the state of Israel. Shooter Merah’s sister, Souad, now faces possible charges of ‘glorifying terrorism.’ “I am furious with my parents for bringing him up in violence and intolerance, with my sister Souad who applauded his fundamentalist delusions, with my brother Abdelkader who actively encouraged him,” said Abdelghani Merah.
French police sources say that sister Souad will be investigated by prosecutors regarding allegations of “glorifying terrorism” after she was secretly filmed by Abdelghani saying she was “proud” of Mohamed’s terrorism. The investigation comes after a report on M6, a French television channel, in which Abdelghani confronted his sister and mother in interviews that were filmed with hidden cameras. “I am proud of [Mohamed], he fought to the very end. I told this to the police and I’m telling you too,” said Souad. She also said, “The Jews, and all those who massacre Muslims, I hate them all. Abdelkader and I support the Salafists, who are the only ones to act.” She added, “But it was Mohamed who was brave enough to go through with this. I am proud, proud, proud.”
At the opening of the M6 broadcast on November 11, Abdelghani said: “My mother always said ‘we, the Arabs, we were born to hate Jews’. I heard this speech throughout my childhood.” In 2003, Abdelghani was stabbed by his younger brother, Abdelkader, because of Abdelghani’s relationship with a woman with Jewish family connections. Abdelkader is the only person to have been arrested in connection with the murders; he now stands accused of helping Mohamed plan and commit the murders. However, Abdelghani says the entire Merah clan is responsible for a crime that unveiled simmering anti-Semitism within the large Muslim community in France. “I am furious with my maternal uncles ... who ceaselessly propagated hatred, racism and anti-Semitism in front of us from a very young age,” he writes in his book.
Both Souad Merah and her brother Abdelkader had been under surveillance by France’s domestic intelligence agency (DCRI) because of their links to Salafist groups, having been considered a much more dangerous threat even than their younger brother, Mohamed. Indeed, Mohamed had been under surveillance for a number of years but dropped off the scope at the end of 2011. It was soon afterward that he murdered three off-duty paratroopers and then members of the Jewish community.
Relatives of Mohamed Merah’s victims claim that he may have become an informer to the DCRI following his return from Afghanistan in 2010, where he is alleged to have received terrorist training. Even so, author Abdelghani Merah dismisses the theory in his new book. “Mohamed had a profound hatred of the police and could never have worked for such an organization." Speaking about his dead brother, Abdelghani said “He hated the entire system. Quite simply he became, after many years of petty criminality, a fanatical Islamist who wanted to start a war with the French state and against what he called ‘miscreants.’…Any other theory is pure fantasy.”
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.