A middle school teacher was knifed to death on the street of a Paris suburb on Friday after allegedly showing his teen students a cartoon caricature of Prophet Mohammad as a part of a class on freedom of expression.
Emmanuel Macron, French President- denounced what he called an “Islamist terrorist attack” and went on to urge the nation to stand united against any form of extremism. Even authorities stated that earlier this month the teacher had discussed caricatures of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad with his class.
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A report from a leading international news daily interviewed one of the parents of the students. He stated that the teacher- Samuel Paty had even advised his pupils who were Muslims to leave the class as he would be showing a caricature of Mohammad, which might offend. According to this parent, his child had said that the professor had done this as an act of kindness and respect for their faith. As for Muslims, any depiction of Prophet Mohammad is blasphemous.
There were, however, a few of the parents who took offence, and two to three days later they held a meeting at the school in the presence of the teacher, school principal, and an official from the education authority. According to the parent who spoke with the leading daily- the meeting went well. In a video recorded around the time of the meeting, one parent had allegedly branded the history teacher as a thug and went on to post the video on social media. This post was then allegedly shared by a Paris mosque among others.
The French anti-terrorism prosecutor opened an investigation for murder with a suspected terrorist motive. Hours later the office of anti-prosecutor Jean-Francois Richard stated that four people, including one minor, were detained.
The President visited the school where the teacher worked in the town of Conflans-Saint-Honorine and met with other staff. He said that one of their compatriots was murdered for his belief in the freedom of expression. He added that this attack must not divide France because that is what the extremists exactly wants.
Police officials were quoted in various media outlets saying that the suspect (who was shot dead by police) was armed with a knife and an airsoft gun- that fires plastic balls. He was shot 600 meters from where the body of the male history teacher was found. Police officials claim that the alleged attacker did not respond to orders to put down his arms.
Police also added that the teacher had received threats after opening a “discussion for a debate” about the caricature some 10 days ago. This resulted in one of the parents filing a complaint against the teacher said police officials adding that the suspected killer had no child at the school.
It is not known if there was a link that existed between the now-dead-suspect and the dead history teacher. It is also not known whether the suspect had an accomplice or if he even saw the video defaming the history teacher. The investigation is still ongoing.
Many teachers and lawmakers’ union hailed the slain history teacher’s courage for confronting challenges such as taboos in French society. According to them, freedom of expression is one of the core tenets of democracy.
French is not new to this as blood has been spilled before over a satire targeting Islam. This resulted in the killing of 12 by Islamist militants in a gun rampage in the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. This was after the magazine had published a series of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
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