Following the attack that killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris Wednesday, worldwide support poured in for the victims, with people using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie on social media to identify with those slain.
Now, however, a new hashtag -- #JeSuisAhmed – is gaining popularity on social media as more people are expressing solidarity with the Muslim police officer who was gunned down outside the satirical magazine's office.
Ahmed Merabet, 40, was the second police officer killed during the Charlie Hebdo attack. According to the BBC, the first person to pay tribute to him on Twitter was a Julien Casters, a French publisher living in Morocco.
"I decided to start the #jesuisahmed hashtag to remember that a French Muslim was also a victim of the attack," Casters told BBC Trending by email.
"It is a snub to the stigmatization of Islam and a reminder that Muslims in France are not all Islamist radicals. It seemed important to try to unite two years before the presidential elections in France, since the only ones to benefit from these terrorist acts are the extreme right political parties."
Casters' tweet was followed by many others, including Arab European League leader Dyab Abou Jahjah, who wrote, "I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JesuisAhmed."
Others used the hashtag not just to honor Merabet, but also to defend Islam.
Imran Ahmed, a political adviser to a British Labor party politician, chimed in posting, "Ahmed Merabet protected people. He was the true face of modern Islam. His murderers were not. #JeSuisAhmed."
According to the New York Times, a colleague of Merabet's said he was always smiling and always professional.
Rocco Contento, an official with another police union, told the Times that Merabet lived in a suburb north of Paris, was unmarried and had no children. His parents were from North Africa, Contento said, but he could not say whether Merabet was a practicing Muslim.
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