By Emma Kate-Symons
She leads a clandestine existence, on the move and under 24-hour guard as France’s most protected woman. Yet Zineb El Rhazoui, the Charlie Hebdo journalist who happened to be in Casablanca on January 7 last year, the day terrorists “avenging the Prophet” massacred nine people at the satirical magazine in Paris, believes she has a duty to defy Islamists desperate to silence her.
Shaken but undeterred by the fatwas and relentless, precise death threats issued via social media to “kill the bitch” since she helped produce the publication’s first survivors’ issue following the attack — and spoke about it in Arabic for the Arab press — the Moroccan-French writer refuses to assume an anonymous identity. Fleeing Paris or abandoning her human rights activism, and her unforgiving critiques of the religion she grew up with, are also out of the question.
“I don’t have the right to renounce my struggle, or to give up my freedom,” says the reporter and sociologist of religion in an interview with Women in the World, during a recent trip to New York, as part of French president Francois Hollande’s delegation when he received the Appeal of Conscience Foundation’s World Statesman Award for 2016. “If the French state protects me it is not little individual me: What is being protected is my freedom to be irreverent, and freedom of expression, so I should exercise this even more because I enjoy this protection.”
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