Paris witnessed a simple yet powerful moment on Monday as twenty-one-year-old French Muslim, Yasmine Bouzegan Marzouk addressed an audience of presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries with one simple message: ‘Don’t Confuse Islam with Terrorism’.
The message may not be new, previously unheard nor a revelation to many, but the fact remains; delivered on such a large and important stage as part of a tribute to the victims of the Nice attacks, amplified its powerful meaning.
But what commanded our attention more than anything was the fact Yasmine Bouzegan Marzouk was nearly killed herself by the attacker and lost three members of her family. Seeing the tears stream down her face as she spoke can never be forgotten.
Remembering her teenage cousin, she said: “The life of a child who had such a promising future was snatched away. He was brought up in the Muslim faith, which says we should respect others and show tolerance.”
At a time when Muslims are the subject of immense negative scrutiny in France, providing a Muslim woman such a positive and influential platform must be welcomed by all who fight against prejudice and terror based rhetoric.
It must be emphasised that despite her bereavement, this proud Muslim woman was a picture of French poise and elegance. Yasmine Bouzegan Marzouk embodies and exemplifies the magnificent truth; there is no conflict between being French and being Muslim. A Muslim can reconcile their identities with culture and values of the society they are living in. Patriotism is an Islamic value and greatly encouraged.
This is an issue I can fully empathise with. As a Muslim woman growing up in the UK, I was proud to be part of a religion that empowers women and treats others with compassion, mercy and equality. The violence being carried out by Islamist extremists like Daesh is an insult to Islam. We will not allow our great religion to be hijacked by these lunatics.
Yasmine Bouzegan Marzouk showed us courage, resilience, humanity and compassion on Monday. She showed us the true face of Islam. Her message is one that we all need to share and share again.
Henna Rai, Founder of WARN.