Mark MacKinnon reports: When Said and Chérif Kouachi came to pray at their local mosque here in the suburbs north of Paris, they did so quietly and discreetly, saying very little. Except for the time the imam used his Friday sermon to urge worshippers to vote in a coming election.
“The older brother [Said] challenged the imam and walked out. He said it was not the imam’s job to call on Muslims to vote,” recalled Ben Ali, the head of the Ennour Association, which manages the Grand Mosque of Gennevilliers. “We respected his opinion and they left quietly.”
Said Kouachi’s refusal to take part in something as central to being French as voting in an election – and his apparent conviction that other Muslims should also boycott the democratic process – is just one of many tales that suggested the 34-year-old was heading in a direction radically at odds with the French state and society.
There are other, darker stories told here about the two brothers who are the subject of a nationwide manhunt after they allegedly burst into the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper carrying Kalashnikov rifles Wednesday and began a shooting rampage that has left at least 12 people dead.
A neighbour in Gennevilliers told The Globe and Mail that she and her husband became so concerned about the behaviour of the Kouachi brothers – whom they could hear loudly reciting the Koran inside their apartment at all hours – that her husband and a friend decided to break in to the Kouachi residence when the brothers left to buy groceries. She said they found a “cache of arms” inside.
She said they were caught when the brothers returned home, and that they shoved her husband around and threatened him into silence. That was two months ago. [Continue reading…]