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Eva Sandler, left, and Latifa Ibn Ziaten light a candle at the Grand Synagogue in Paris on Jan. 11, 2015.

Matthieu Alexandre/The Associated Press

When dignitaries, clerics and politicians such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined mourners at the Great Synagogue of Paris to commemorate the 17 victims of the recent terrorist attacks, one of the emotional high points occurred when the last of 17 candles was lit together by two women, one wearing a Muslim head scarf.

The woman with the hijab was Latifa Ibn Ziaten. Two years ago, her son Imad was one of three French soldiers of North African ancestry killed by an extremist Muslim gunman.

Ms. Ibn Ziaten had been scheduled to spend the weekend in her native Morocco at a sporting event for disabled children, but she felt that she had to be in Paris to take part in the march and the other tributes to the victims of last week's shootings.

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And so, on Sunday night, she lit a candle at the synagogue, hand in hand with Eva Sandler, whose husband and two sons were killed by the same terrorist during shootings in Toulouse and Montauban.

"We have to close ranks against all forms of obscurantism, extremism and barbarism," Ms. Ibn Ziaten said on her website, explaining why she joined the Paris march after the Charlie Hebdo killings.

The two brothers who attacked Charlie Hebdo, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, along with their associate, Amedy Coulibaly, the gunman who took hostages at the Paris kosher supermarket, claimed their affiliation to a radical brand of Islam. The two brothers said they were affiliated with al-Qaeda in Yemen while Mr. Coulibaly pledged loyalty to the militant group Islamic State.

But as with the Toulouse shooting, their stories are intertwined with that of other Muslims who chose a different path.

There has been much praise for Lassana Bathily, a Muslim employee at the supermarket who hid a group of shoppers inside a basement walk-in freezer, then managed to sneak out and provide police with a key they used to open the store's shutters during their assault.

Furthermore, the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting included two men of Algerian origin, proofreader Mustapha Ourrad and police officer Ahmed Merabet.

"He was French of Algerian origin and of Muslim faith. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet," his brother Malek told reporters, adding that the slain officer was also "proud to represent the French police and defend the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity."

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In her message on her website, Ms. Ibn Ziaten had similarly called for vigilance to protect "the Republican pact" against extremism.

The mentions of the Republic by Malek Merabet and Ms. Ibn Ziaten are no coincidence.

In France, Republican values imply a system where an individual's religious faith has to exist within a framework of state secularism, where citizens are expected to be equals, with no emphasis on separate communities.

It is a set of ideals that has created frictions with some more-devout Muslims when, citing Republic values, French authorities have banned Islamic head veils from public spaces such as school campuses.

The resentment against French values and authorities could be witnessed in the days after the Charlie Hebdo shootings when schools asked for a minute of silence.

French media reported that some Muslim students refused to comply. "They got what they deserved," one professor in Paris's 13th arrondissement heard her pupils say, according to Le Figaro.

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Ms. Ibn Ziaten confronted similar attitudes after her son's killing, when she visited the neighbourhood where the gunman had grown up.

Her slain son, Master Sergeant Imad Ibn-Ziaten, was the second of her five children. Another son is a police officer.

"My children, I raised them in the respect of the others, and the values of the Republic," she told the newspaper Libération in 2012.

In the spring of that year, her son and two other paratroopers, Corporal Abel Chennouf and Private Mohamed Legouad, were killed in two separate ambushes by Mohammed Merah, a French national of Algerian descent who had graduated from petty crimes to attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

The counterterrorism officer who had interviewed Mr. Merah on his return from Pakistan was also a Muslim. In a leaked audio recording made while Mr. Merah was surrounded by police, he negotiated with the officer, calling him Hassan.

Hassan and the three paratroopers were fair game to Mr. Merah because of France's presence in Afghanistan at the time. He told Hassan that he had planned to lure him to a meeting and shoot him "right in the head."

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Mr. Merah died in a shootout with a police tactical squad.

Afterward, Ms. Ibn Ziaten travelled to the rough Toulouse neighbourhood where Mr. Merah grew up, Cité des Izards, and confronted some young people there.

According to the interview she gave to Libération, the youths hailed Mr. Merah as a hero but lost their bravado when they learned her identity.

After hearing them talk about having no jobs, no hope and only criminal records, she now speaks to young people, at schools and even prisons, in an effort to keep them from becoming radicalized.

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