Activist whose son was murdered by extremist wins Zayed Award for Human Fraternity

Latifa Ibn Ziaten was awarded the prize for her campaigning

Latifa Ibn Ziaten offers a picture of her son, French paratrooper Imed Iban Ziaten killed by Mohamed Merah, to France's President Francois Hollande (L) during a ceremony commemorating the victims of terrorism at the Invalides in Paris, on September 19, 2012. AFP PHOTO / POOL / FRANCOIS MORI (Photo by FRANCOIS MORI / POOL / AFP)
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Latifa Ibn Ziaten was jointly awarded the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity on Wednesday.

The Moroccan-French activist is dedicated to raising awareness about extremism after losing her son, Imad, in a terrorist attack in 2012.

Imad Ibn Ziaten was shot by extremist Mohamed Merah after he refused to lie down on the ground.

Merah, born in Toulouse to Algerian parents, murdered seven people and filmed each killing, an episode that shocked France. He was killed in a police siege.

Quote
I'm not going to lie face down... I'm staying here. You're going to shoot? Go on then, shoot

“I’m not going to lie face down ... I’m staying here. You’re going to shoot? Go on then, shoot,” Ibn Ziaten, 30, was heard in a transcript of the killing.

Ms Ibn Ziaten later told media she wanted people to know how her son died.

“This is not Islam,” she said. “And my son, though he was a soldier, had never killed anyone.”

French security services had been monitoring Merah after he made trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ms Ibn Ziaten also paid a visit to her son's killer's home city to understand the path of violence the man embarked on.

Her experience led her to launch a foundation that aims to stop young French Muslims turning to extremism.

During the visit, in 2012, Ms Ibn Ziaten was shocked to find people regarded Merah as “a martyr, a hero of Islam”.

She felt “another Mohamed Merah” would happen unless more efforts were made to reach out to disaffected young people of Maghrebin origin.

Only when Ms Ibn Ziaten told the young men she encountered that she, a Muslim like them, was the mother of Merah’s first victim, an off-duty soldier, did their defiance give way to signs of contrition.

“They changed immediately and kept saying ‘sorry, madame’,” Ms Ibn Ziaten, 52, said in an emotional account of her visit, shown during a France 2 television debate on Islam.

Ms Ibn Ziaten, born in Morocco but a resident of France since her late teens, decided to create the Imad Association “for youth and peace” as a way of ensuring some good came from her son’s death.

Now she has been honoured for her efforts and on Thursday she will jointly receive the prize, and $1 million to invest in her initiative.

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