Samuel Paty Paris teacher beheaded by Aboulakh A after showing cartoons of Prophet to middle school class. Educator had received death threats days prior as debate ensues over the freedom to offend while some parents questioned teacher’s motive.
The French teacher who was beheaded by a suspected Islamist terrorist yesterday for showing his class cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammed was on Saturday identified as Samuel Paty.
The 47-year-old history middle school teacher had received threats after opening a discussion ‘for a debate’ about ‘freedom of expression’ citing about 10 days ago before he was stabbed and decapitated by 18-year-old Chechen gunman Aboulakh A in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 25 miles north-west of Paris close to the school where he taught.
He had ‘invited Muslim students out of the classroom’ before showing a caricature of the Prophet published by Charlie Hebdo, the satirical magazine targeted by terrorists five years ago, in a lesson about free speech.
The cartoon reportedly showed the Prophet Mohammed crouching naked with a star drawn on his buttocks and the inscription ‘A star is born’.
Outraged parents questioned teacher’s motives
Of note, prior to his grizzly murder, Samuel had expressed ‘concerned for his safety’ after receiving death threats, a colleague claimed.
Nordine Chaouadi, a father of a 13-year-old pupil at the secondary school in middle-class Conflans-Sainte-Honorine told Reuters, Paty had told any Muslim students to leave because the cartoon would likely cause offense. For Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous.
Chaouadi said his son, a Muslim, interpreted the teacher’s actions as done out of kindness and respect for their faith.
‘He did it to protect the children, not to shock them,’ said Chaouadi.
One Muslim pupil stayed behind by mistake, and later told her parents. They filed a complaint against the teacher and held a meeting with Paty, the school principal and an official from the education authority.
Brahim Chnina, who said his daughter was in the class branded Paty a thug in a video posted on Twitter sometime in the last week, where he asked the community to complain about his behavior.
Before showing the images, Paty asked Muslim children to leave the room because he planned to show something shocking, Chnina said. ‘What was the message he wanted to send these children? Why does a history teacher behave this way in front of 13-year-olds?’ he asked.
A murder linked to a terrorist organization?
‘If you want to join forces and say ‘stop, don’t touch our children, then send me a message.’ This thug should not remain in the national education system, should no longer teach our children. He should go educate himself.’
The video sparked community outrage and was shared by a mosque in Pantin, a Parisian suburb. Days later, Paty was then stabbed and decapitated by Russian national Aboulakh A, who shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ in the attack.
The suspected Islamist was yesterday shot dead by police about 600 yards from the killing when he refused to drop his weapons and threatened the officers. It is unclear whether the gunman had seen the video.
French anti-terror prosecutors said they were treating the assault as ‘a murder linked to a terrorist organization’.
Nine people have been arrested, including the parents of a child at the school who had signaled their disagreement with Paty’s decision to show the cartoon, a judicial source said.
Four people were initially detained by police over the murder, but five new people held for questioning are members of the suspected Islamist’s social circle, including his grandparents, parents and 17-year-old brother.
‘One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught the freedom to believe or not believe.’
Yesterday’s terror attack came as Emmanuel Macron works on a bill to address Islamic radicals, who authorities claim are creating a parallel society outside French values. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe with up to five million members, and Islam is the country’s second religion.
The French President denounced what he called an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’, claiming: ‘One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught the freedom to believe or not believe. He said the attack should not divide France because that is what the extremists want. We must stand all together as citizens.’
Adding, ‘The whole country stands behind its teachers. Terrorists will not divide France, obscurantism will not win.’
Yesterday’s attack is the fifth this year alone in France.
Just last month, seven people were detained in connection with a knife attack outside Charlie Hebdo’s former offices in Paris.
France has been plagued by a string of deadly terror attacks since 2015.
The deadliest was in 2015 when 130 people were killed in Paris as suicide bombers targeted the Stade de France, cafés, restaurants and the Bataclan music venue.
In July 2016, 86 people were killed and more than 400 injured when a 19-ton truck was deliberately driven into crowds in Nice.
Of question, is what link, if any, Friday’s attacker might have with the teacher or whether he had accomplices.
Non vérifié, attention :
Terroriste : Abdoulakh Anzorov
Victime : Samuel Paty pic.twitter.com/31Nh2D6D54
— Mr___Killuminati (@Mr__Killuminati) October 16, 2020
‘children needed to understand that blasphemy can shock, but is legal’
Police on Friday arrived at the scene after receiving a call about a suspicious individual loitering near the school, a police source said. There they found the dead educator and nearby sighted the suspect armed with a knife-like weapon, who threatened them as they tried to arrest him.
They opened fire and injured him severely, the source said. The man later died of his injuries, French media reported.
Before being shot, the teenager had posted a grisly video of the severed head on social media before being shot dead by police, Le Parisien reported. French anti-terror prosecutors confirmed they were investigating an assault in which a man was decapitated on the outskirts of Paris.
‘The body of decapitated man was found at around 5.30 in the afternoon,’ said an investigating source. ‘When police arrived, the person thought to be responsible was still present and threatened them with his weapons.’
The unidentified killer then fled to the nearby town of Eragny-sur-Oise where he refused to surrender.
‘He was waving a gun by this time and further threatened officers,’ said the source. ‘This is when he was shot dead by police… Around ten shots were heard.
Lawmakers and teachers’ unions have since hailed the slain teacher’s courage for confronting challenging taboos in French society. Freedom of expression was a core tenet of democracy, they said.
Jean-Remi Girard, president of the National Union of School Teachers, told BFM TV that children needed to understand that blasphemy can shock, but is legal.
Sophie Vénétitay, deputy head of the SNES-FSU teachers’ union, said: ‘He was murdered because he was doing his job, namely teaching critical thought.’ She said Mr Paty was a history and geography teacher who was in charge of ‘moral and civic education’.
The freedom to offend- but at what cost?
‘In that capacity, he gave a lesson on the freedom of expression with the Mohammed cartoons,’ she said.
Muslim leaders condemned the killing, which many public figures described as an attack on the essence of French statehood and its values of secularism, freedom of worship and freedom of expression.
The attack follows a terrorism enquiry being launched in Paris last month after two news agency staff were stabbed outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo – the magazine where staff members were murdered in 2015 after publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet.
Charlie Hebdo now produces its magazine from a top secret location, and in September re-published the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which had provoked outrage in the Muslim world as two polarized but parallel societies continue to clash over virtues, morality and freedom of expression or lack of.