Dont know the name? If I tell you he was the young Malian Muslim who hid several customers, predominantly Jewish, in a freezer in the kosher grocery store he was working in when Amedy Coulibaly took over the shop, killing four people on the 9th January this year, you will, I’m sure, know who I mean.
Much has been rightly been made of his act, many lives were saved. His heroism has been so appreciated that the President of France himself called Lassana to assure him that his application for French citizenship would be fast tracked and indeed, as I write this, he is preparing for his investiture, being presided over by Bernard Cazeneuve.
Much has also been made of the fact that he, a Muslim, saved the lives of Jews. My question is this. Has this been overplayed, given the sensitivities of the moment?
France was in a state of terror, three days of complete panic threatened to destabilise the country, threatened to deepen the already existing divides that exist.
If one has never been in a situation of sheer terror, especially in times of already heightened tensions, then its impossible to know what the reaction will be. That Lassana Bathily understood the situation, and had the werewithall to save the lives of many people is more than commendable, its an act of intelligence, bravery and cool thinking whilst under pressure. But wasn’t he just being a human being? Showing kindness to human beings? Did he ask what religion they were before he saved them? I’m led to believe he didnt, he just saw human beings in need of help, and helped them.
Those who have been in situations of sheer terror, especially in times of already heightened tensions, know that during such times, the most overriding sensation is self preservation, followed very quickly by preservation of friends and then those around you. I would contend that once Coulibaly was in the shop, and Lassana realised what was happening, he showed compassion for his fellow human beings, irrespective of religion. He behaved like a normal human being would, as most of us would hope to behave if we were to ever have the misfortune to be placed in the same situation.
I am in no way denigrating his actions, to save the life of a fellow human being is a chance given to very few and I, along with all right minded human beings, salute him. I have to wonder though if he had been Jewish, saving fellow Jews, a Christian saving Christians or a Muslim saving Muslims, would such a fuss have been made? The fact he was a Muslim working in a Kosher store clearly shows there was no problem with him there, him saving the others, who happened to be Jewish has perhaps meant more has been made of this story than otherwise would have been.
Just my opinion of course and I wish the soon to be French Lassana Bathily all the best for his new life in his adopted country.