President Macron calls teacher's beheading in France "Islamist terrorist attack"
The teacher, who showed caricatures of Prophet Muhammad to his class, became a victim of an Islamist terrorist attack, President Emmanuel Macron said. "They won't win...We will act," told Macron to reporters from the western suburb in capital Paris, where the teacher was decapitated on Friday afternoon (local time). The attacker was shot dead by police. Here's what went down.
The victim, a 47-year-old teacher identified by French media as Samuel Paty, had earlier this month showed caricatures of the Prophet, published by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, to his class. He taught history-geography, France's schools have lessons on the subjects together, and gave obligatory lessons in "moral and civil education." The caricatures were shown to students between 12 and 14 years of age.
A police official told AP that the teacher received threats after showing the caricatures to the class. For Muslims, anything remotely linked to the Prophet is "blasphemous." According to the news agency, the parent of one of the students, who attended the class, filed a complaint against the teacher. The attacker, police said, did not have a child who attended the school.
Some parents, who took offense, held a meeting with the teacher, the principal of the institution — College du Bois-d'Aulne — and a member of the education authority. The meeting, a parent named Nordine Chaouadi told Reuters, was peaceful. Chaouadi's Muslim son said the teacher showed them the caricatures out of respect. "He did it to protect the children, not to shock them," the parent said.
However, one parent shot a video, berating the teacher, and uploaded it on social media, reported Reuters. The parent called the teacher a "thug," saying he shouldn't remain in the "education system and should first educate himself." "If you want to join forces and say 'stop, don't touch our children, then send me a message," he said. A Paris mosque had shared the video.
The attacker, believed to be an 18-year-old Chechen, used a large kitchen knife to kill the teacher, not far from the school he taught in. Witnesses heard the attacker shout "Allahu Akbar." He fled the scene but was confronted by cops at Éragny, a nearby district. Cops asked the attacker to surrender, but he threatened them instead. He was shot, and died subsequently.
After the attack, the area was cordoned off and locals were asked to avoid it. The prosecutor's office said a probe for murder with a suspected terrorist motive has been launched. Four people, including a minor, have been detained. Residents of Conflans-Saint-Honorine, where the slaying happened, said they were shocked. "We didn't see this coming," said Remi Tell, adding the place largely remained peaceful.
The victim's courage was hailed by teachers' unions and political leaders. Jean-Remi Girard, President of the National Union of School Teachers, told BFM TV that children need to be taught that blasphemy can be shocking, but is legal. Teachers also said freedom of expression was one of the core tenets of a democracy. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said, "It's the Republic that's under attack."
Macron, who visited the site, said the country must remain united against extremism. "One of our fellow citizens was assassinated today because he was teaching, he was teaching pupils about freedom of expression. Our compatriot was flagrantly attacked, was the victim of an Islamist terrorist attack," Macron said. The attack shouldn't divide France as this is what the extremists want, Macron added.
The teacher's brutal killing is the second terror incident in three weeks to jolt France. Last month, a Pakistani stabbed two people with a meat cleaver outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo. He "was angry" after the publication republished cartoons, as the trial into the 2015 attacks started. Years ago, over a dozen died in three days of violence over Charlie Hebdo's caricatures.