An imam from a Paris suburb says he was acquainted with Cherif Kouachi, one of the terrorists behind the killing of 12 people Wednesday at the offices of the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
“Cherif was a very good guy but I lost him two or three years ago,” Mehdi Bouzid says during an interview with BBC Radio 4.
“I played football with him. I spoke with him the first time he wanted to go to Iraq, to tell him it is not a solution, you don’t know for whom you are fighting.”
Bouzid says he is shocked over the the attack, but urges French citizens to attempt and understand Muslim sensitivities.
“I never suspected he could make this thing. When we saw the pictures I recognized the way he walks in the video, I recognized his voice,” Bouzid continues.
“I don’t justify any attacks, but when you look at their past, when you don’t have any identity, when you don’t belong, you can take some very, very ugly act,” he says. “When you know that something hurts me, you have to respect me, and Charlie Hebdo don’t respect that.”
Bouzid argues that “when you have a Muslim name it is very difficult to find a job, to make your prayer, to wear your veil.”
He says “it’s a challenge for France. They have to think about this, because we are here, I was born here, I have my family here, I dream in French, I am French.”
“I am not alarmist,” he continues. “But maybe in a few weeks, in a few months, we will notice that there will be some bad things in France.”