More than 11 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon that claimed more than 3,000 lives, its horror still haunts the world. This time, disturbing news has arrived from France as a case comes to court involving a mother who sent her 3-year-old son to kindergarten in a T-shirt reading “I am a bomb” on the front and “Jihad, born September 11” on the back.
The "jihad" affair, as the French media call it, started on Sept. 25, when Bouchra Bagour’s son appeared at the kindergarten in Sorgues wearing the controversial T-shirt. His teacher reported it to Avignon Mayor Thierry Lagneau, who immediately made a complaint against the mother.
Now, the mother is being charged with criminal offense and may face a jail sentence. The prosecutor also demands a 1,000-euro penalty for her and 3,000 euros for her brother, Zeyad Bagour, who made the T-shirt.
Yesterday, in front of the judge, Bouchra Bagour told the judge she did not know the shirt would cause such a problem.
“I put him in that shirt only once, just to please my brother who gave it to us. Once I understood it was seen as provoking, I have never done it again,” Bouchra said in court.
Her brother said he didn't see anything bad in wearing the shirt. He said that the word “bomb” is used in French slang as “excellent, great,” and that the boy’s real name was Jihad.
The boy was born Sept. 11, 2009, and it was his father’s wish to name him Jihad. Now it is up to the Avignon court to decide whether the incident was a distasteful joke or a crime. Meanwhile, the story keeps making headlines in the French media.
"The French public is shocked by this case,” Jean-Frédéric Gallo, a journalist for the French daily Midi Libre, told this reporter. “Sept. 11 caused a real trauma here also. But more important is the fact that last year we had the case of Mohamed Merah, who shot seven people dead—French soldiers and Jewish children. The French felt endangered. And now, in France, there is the time before and after Mohamed Merah.”
Gallo, who covers the case, also said the French condemn this disturbing act of the Bagour siblings, as “no one wants to play around with Sept. 11.”
“The situation is dramatic and a lot of people request serious punishments for the mother and uncle of little Jihad. Well, the incident is serious, but one must admit that there is no religious issue in this case. They are of the Muslim faith, but moderates. They are perfectly integrated and have always respected the French Republic,” Gallo explained. “It was a bad joke, a very stupid one. But anyway, it was very shocking for the French.”
Stupid joke or serious provocation—that will be decided by the court. In any event, the incident could cause serious damage to the Muslim population in France. It somehow fits the cliché of a “bad Muslim who is a dangerous terrorist,” and it is very bad for the image of this population throughout Europe.
Religious questions are especially sensitive in France. Islam is the second-largest religion in that country, and it is estimated that 4.7 million Muslims live in France.