(JTA) – The Muslim store employee who saved seven French Jews during the terrorist attack on a kosher supermarket was made a French citizen.
Lassana Bathily, a 24-year-old immigrant from Mali, was granted citizenship at a Paris ceremony on Tuesday after his application, initially filed last summer, was expedited in response to a public campaign on his behalf.
At the ceremony, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve stood next to Bathily.
“People tell me I am a hero. I am not a hero. I am trying to stay myself,” Bathily said, NBC News reported.
Bathily, who has lived in France for nine years, received a standing ovation at the end of his speech, when he said “I am very happy. Long live liberty! Long live friendship! Long live solidarity! Long live France!”
According to NBC News, Bathily “stood with his head bowed and his hands clasped as Cazeneuve praised his actions as ‘the highest gesture of Islam and peace’ and welcomed him as ‘the newest citizen at the heart of this country.’”
Bathily, who was in the basement when a gunman entered the Hyper Cacher supermarket on Jan. 9, hid the seven people, including a 2-year-old child, in the freezer.
Michel Emsalem, Hyper Cacher’s owner, attended the citizenship ceremony and called Bathily a hero.
“He represents a big message for many people, especially for us,” Emsalem said, according to NBC News.