The mother of a Muslim French soldier killed by an Islamist terrorist near Toulouse in 2012 has been jointly awarded a prize worth a million dollars for her work warning youths in France about the dangers of radicalization. She shares the prize with UN boss Antonio Guterres.
Latifa Ibn Ziaten's son Imad was shot dead on 11 March 2012 by Mohammed Merah, who killed two other soliders and went on 8 days later to kill 3 Jewish children and their teacher.
The Franco-Moroccan mother has spent much of her time since that day visiting schools, prisons and mosques in a campaign to stop youngsters becoming radicalized and to promote peace and understanding.
The Zayed Award for Human Fraternity was presented in a virtual ceremony in Abu Dhabi by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, both themselves previous winners.
Ibn Ziaten shares the 2021 prize with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
In a speech paying tribute to Ibn Ziaten, Pope Francis said she had lived her life “with a smile” despite the immense pain she had experienced. “Thank you for being a mother of this community that is listening and learning from you on the path to fraternity”, he declared.
Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb talked of how she was fighting “the dark monster which is terrorism”. Calling her “a role model for the world”, Dr El-Tayeb described her as a “strong, heroic mother.”
She has on several occasions been targeted because of her outspoken condemnation of anti-Semitism. In 2019, she received death threats and graffiti glorifying the French jihadist were sprayed on the walls of her home.
Prize money will be used to help others
Both winners, who were described as models for the next generation, have pledged to donate their $500,000 cash prizes. Antonio Guterres will donate to the UNHCR, while Mrs Ibn Ziaten will give the money to Imad, the organization she created in honour of her son to help young people and promote peace.
The Zayed Award, which 'recognizes the institutions and community of people who are spreading the work of human fraternity and co-existence around the world' was set up on 4 February 2019, when Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb and Pope Francis met in Abu Dhabi to sign a Document on Human Fraternity.
The UN has now designated 4 February as the International Day of Human Fraternity.