The French political and educational class is dazed this Saturday (17), after the beheading of a history professor who displayed cartoons of Muhammad during a class on freedom of expression, outside Paris. The crime, treated as an Islamist terrorist by the French authorities, occurred this Friday afternoon (16) in the middle of the street, 300 meters from the school where the victim taught history and geography. He was identified as Samuel Paty, 47.
The display of cartoons by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo during class last week had caused some parents to be indignant. One of them even tried to press charges against the teacher and posted a video on YouTube to denounce the stance in class. The images may have stimulated the attacker, who was killed by the police shortly after committing the murder.
The 18-year-old, of Chechen origin and known to the French police intelligence services, had a kitchen knife in his hand and shouted “Allah is the greatest” before being killed by the police. So far, nine people have been detained for questioning, including two parents of students, including the author of the video. Four pre-trial detainees are relatives of the offender.
The professor “was killed because he taught freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not,” French President Emmanuel Macron declared on Friday night, visiting the site of the attack.
“They won’t pass,” says Macron
“We will all be together. They will not pass, the obscurantism and the violence that accompanies it will not win,” added Macron, accompanied by his interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, who interrupted a trip to Morocco and returned to Paris. The Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, was also part of the delegation.
The victim was beheaded at about 5 pm local time (12 pm Brasília), in the middle of the street, near the Bois d’Aulne school, where he worked, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. The small town of 35 thousand inhabitants is located 50 kilometers from Paris. The National Antiterrorist Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation for “murder in connection with a terrorist entity” and “criminal terrorist association”.
After meeting with school officials, Macron asked “the whole nation” to unite around teachers to “protect and defend them”. The murder comes three weeks after a knife attack in the French capital near the former headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine, which published these cartoons with the figure of the prophet.
Head photo on Twitter and threatening message
Police are investigating a message posted on Twitter, which shows a photo of the victim’s head. Accompanying the image is a message addressed to President Emmanuel Macron, “the leader of the infidels”, and the author of the tweet said he wanted to “execute” the person who “dared to belittle Muhammad”.
Police in the city of Conflans Saint-Honorine have been alerted to the presence of a suspicious individual hanging around a school, the Paris Prosecutor’s Office said. Upon arrival, the police found the victim beheaded 300 meters from the school. They tried to arrest a man, but he threatened them, which prompted the police to fire several times. The young man died instantly.
Shock and incomprehension dominated city dwellers, with whom AFP was able to speak. Everyone described the neighborhood where the attack occurred as “quiet” and “without incident”.
Rodrigo Arenas, co-president of FCPE, the largest parent association for students, said he received a report from “an extremely angry parent” after a cartoon of Muhammad was shown in the classroom. According to Arenas, the professor “invited Muslim students to leave the room”, before showing the caricature of the crouching prophet, with a star drawn on the buttocks, and the caption “a star is born”.
According to the father of a student who was in class and said that the teacher did not want to shock some children, the sequence caused much controversy among some parents.
“Saluting the memory” of the teacher
The attack provoked outrage in France. In the National Assembly, deputies stood up to “salute the professor’s memory” and denounce the “abominable attack”.
Just three weeks ago, two people were injured after a 25-year-old Pakistani man attacked by a machete near the old facilities of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The author of this Islamist attack told investigators that he wanted to avenge Charlie Hebdo’s republication of Muhammad cartoons in early September.
It was with the same justification that the magazine was attacked in January 2015 by two jihadists, who carried out a massacre, killing most members of the newsroom, including some of France’s most famous cartoonists. In September, Al Qaeda threatened to attack Charlie Hebdo’s newsroom again, which after the 2015 attacks moved and kept its new address a secret.
Since the start of the unprecedented wave of jihadist attacks that began in 2015 in France, 258 people have died across the country.
With AFP information