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France mourns teacher Samuel Paty, as government mobilizes against Muslim groups

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Michel Euler AP

Hundreds of people gathered on Sunday at the Place de la Republique in Paris to pay tribute to Samuel Paty, the French teacher who was beheaded Friday.

PARIS — In 2015, the rallying cry was “Je suis Charlie.” Now, it is “Je suis Samuel.”

Samuel Paty, the middle school history teacher who was beheaded for having shown his students caricatures of the prophet Muhammad during a lesson on free expression, was posthumously granted France’s highest award, the Légion d’Honneur, and commemorated in a national ceremony at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Wednesday.

His gruesome killing in the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine has revived the nation’s horror at the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. And just as France stood by the satirical newspaper then, it is rallying around its teachers.

At the ceremony in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron called Paty “the face of the Republic,” eulogizing a man whose “apartment was a library” and whose “greatest gifts were books.”

“We all have, in our hearts, in our memories a teacher who changed the course of our existence. You know, this teacher who taught us to read, to count, to have confidence in ourselves. This teacher who not only passed on knowledge to us, but opened a path for us.”

“Samuel Paty was one of those,” Macron said, “one of those teachers who will not be forgotten, of these enthusiasts capable of spending nights learning history, a teacher who questioned himself a thousand times, as he did for a course on freedom of expression and freedom of conscience that he had been preparing since July.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/video/world/french-police-raid-islamic-associations-after-teachers-beheading/2020/10/21/f70a5bf9-9522-4845-962b-aba7f6bad436_video.html

Whereas Charlie Hebdo relishes causing offense in its pursuit of free speech, Paty — according to the accounts of those who knew him — did not.

He attended training courses at Paris’s Arab Institute to better understand his students. He organized an Arab music concert to honor their culture.

“He had read the Quran and respected his students, regardless of their beliefs,” Macron said. “He was interested in Muslim civilization.”

And when he introduced the topic of the controversial cartoons in class, he acknowledged that it might be hurtful to Muslim students and offered them a chance to look away.

On Wednesday, Jean-François Ricard, France’s anti-terror prosecutor, provided a clearer picture of how Paty was targeted and killed.

[Gruesome details emerge in beheading of French teacher who showed students Muhammad cartoons]

After the Oct. 5 lesson on free expression, one parent — whose daughter was not actually present in Paty’s class that day, Ricard said — complained on social media. Prosecutors say that is how the episode came to the attention of the attacker, Abdoulakh Anzorov, an 18-year-old Russian-born Chechen who lived 50 miles away.

Lewis Joly

AP

French lawmakers gather to pay homage to slain teacher Samuel Paty on the steps of the National Assembly in Paris on Tuesday.

Ricard said the parent’s Facebook posts included Paty’s name and the name of the school where he taught, the Collège du Bois d’Aulne. Anzorov and the parent exchanged multiple telephone and written messages in the weeks leading up to the attack, Ricard said.

But Anzorov could only identify Paty with the help of students. “The identification was possible through the intervention of schoolchildren,” Ricard said.

Police shot and killed Anzorov shortly after the attack. Seven people were set to go before a judge on Wednesday, Ricard said. Included were two minors, 14- and 15-years-old, who helped Anzorov identify Paty, in exchange for about 300 ($ 350), according to the prosecutor.

Also among those who have been detained are the father who posted about Paty and cleric Abdelhakim Sefrioui. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has accused both of launching a “fatwa” or religious order against the teacher. And Sefrioui’s organization, the Cheikh Yassin Collective, is being ordered to disband.

The killing has provided further impetus for a French government effort to rein in radicalization and — controversially — to “reform” how Islam is practiced in France.

President Emmanuel Macron, speaking on Tuesday in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, said, “Several dozen concrete actions have been launched in recent days against organizations, associations or individuals who carry a project of radical Islamism, or an ideology of destruction of the Republic.”

By while the French are shocked by Friday’s attack, some have questioned whether the government is going too far with its crackdown — conducting raids, threatening deportations and targeting organizations with tenuous connections to Paty’s killing.

Julien De Rosa

EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Police officers afi xa prefectoral decree on the entrance of the Grande Mosquee of Pantin on Tuesday announcing the closure of the mosque after it relayed a videos calling for action agaisnt Paty.

The government ordered a mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin to close for six months for having shared on Facebook a video calling for action against Paty. The mosque deleted the video and expressed regret.

“There’s no room for violence in our religion,” the Pantin mosque said Monday, in a Facebook statement. “We strongly condemn this savagery.”

Darmanin, meanwhile, signaled that more than 50 French Muslim organizations are under scrutiny and would be shut down if found to be promoting hatred. And he specifically threatened to dissolve the Committee Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), characterizing it as an enemy of the Republic.

The CCIF acknowledged in a statement that it was contacted by the parent about Paty and had been looking into his claims, but it denied participating in a harassment campaign against the teacher.

The umbrella group European Network Against Racism expressed extreme concern about Darmanin’s statement.

“This proposal to dissolve a professional anti-racist organisation which does crucial work to combat racism and defend the rights of racialised groups is a violation of democratic freedoms,” the organization wrote. “It reflects institutional racism within the French government, in a context where it has recently announced a bill which stigmatises and targets French Muslim communities.”

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, World reports

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