This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
High school teacher is beheaded on a French street following classes on free expression.
This past Friday, a teenager to whom the country of France had generously granted refugee status, committed cold-blooded murder. In the town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, an hour’s drive northwest of Paris, 18-year-old Abdoullakh Anzorov beheaded someone he’d never met before. In the middle of the street. In broad daylight.
That someone was Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old high school history and geography teacher, and father of a five-year-old. According to Le Monde, two weeks earlier (on October 5th), Paty did something he did every year while teaching about freedom of expression. He told his students: “Tomorrow, I am going to show you a drawing that may shock some of you of the Muslim faith. If you want, you can walk out of the classroom, close your eyes, or look away.”
Paty subsequently showed his class a caricature that satirized Muhammad. According to conflicting reports, a female student was either suspended from school for two days around this time for belligerent behaviour, or didn’t attend, claiming to be ill. In any case, that student’s father, who is active in the Muslim community, then made social media posts calling Paty a thug and demanding he be fired. Sympathizers were urged to write to educational authorities and government officials.
Le Monde quotes the mother of another student who says a video, involving the suspended student’s father, was sent to her via Algeria. She says she received this video “at least ten times through different channels in a few days.” The 13-year-old suspended student reportedly appeared onscreen alongside her father, falsely alleging that Paty was Islamophobic, and had targeted Muslims in his classroom.
Among those who viewed this emotionally charged material on social media was the 18-year-old assassin. He resided in Evreux, a town 55 miles (90 km) distant. On Friday afternoon, wielding a butcher’s knife, he committed murder after apparently asking third parties for help locating Paty. Pursued by police, he was eventually confronted and shot dead after shouting “Allahu Akbar” and brandishing a handgun. A second knife was found on his body.
Le Monde reports that, a few minutes after the teacher’s killing, a gruesome photo of his decapitated head was posted to Twitter, along with this declaration, which had been composed on the assassin’s phone earlier that day:
In the name of Allah, the most merciful, the most merciful, (…) to Macron, the leader of the infidels, I ‘ executed one of your hellhounds who dared to belittle Muhammad, calm his fellow human beings before they inflict harsh punishment on you.
Investigators have confirmed the account belonged to the attacker, and that the photo posted to Twitter was taken by his phone at 4:57 pm. Le Monde says the Twitter account, @Tchetchene_270, “regularly published extracts from the Koran and vilified ‘disbelievers.'” Moreover, accompanying text on the account declared that women should not be mentioned either publicly, or in private twitter exchanges. It has since been deleted.
This is what extremism looks like. Strange, isn’t it? That the very same communities who complain loudly about intolerance often turn out to be extraordinarily intolerant themselves. Tolerance has become just another word. Just another weapon to be hurled.
The assassin was reportedly born in Moscow, to Chechen parents, and had lived in France for more than a decade. Rather than being grateful to his new country, he repaid its generosity with this atrocity.
Spontaneous public demonstrations in support of Samuel Paty took place in numerous communities across France this past weekend. An amazing, widescreen photograph of one such gathering, held in Toulouse, appears midway down this page on the Le Monde website (the photo at the top of this post is a small part of that overall shot).
The best teachers serve as lanterns in the darkness. May the memory of Monsieur Paty continue to shine exuberantly.