A French teacher in a Paris suburb was beheaded after he discussed the Muhammad cartoons with his class. This is the second terror attack in France since the terrorist trial of the perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre began. The suspected attacker, a Chechen teenager, was subsequently killed by police in a neighboring town.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who has come out strongly against Islamic “separatism” in France, is urging the nation to stand united against extremism. Macron visited the school in the town of Conflans-Saint-Honorine and met with staff.
“One of our compatriots was murdered today because he taught … the freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe,” Macron said.
He said the attack shouldn’t divide France because that’s what the extremists want. “We must stand all together as citizens,” he said.
Police say the teenager was armed with an air-soft gun and a knife and refused to drop his weapons when commanded to do so.
The teacher had received threats after opening a discussion on the caricatures about 10 days ago. Some parents complained to the school. But the teacher was extremely understanding of his Muslim student’s feelings, asking them to leave the classroom before showing the cartoons.
Nordine Chaouadi, a parent of one of the pupils at the school, told Agence France-Presse that the teacher had taken the Muslim children out of the class before showing the caricatures. “My son told me that it was just to preserve them, it was out of pure kindness, because he had to show a caricature of the prophet of Islam and simply said to the Muslim children: ‘Go out, I don’t want it to hurt your feelings,’ that’s what my son told me,” he said.
The attack occurred as the trial of 14 accomplices in the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo continues. The trial began on September 2 and is expected to last until November 14. Twelve people were murdered in that attack.
Some of the testimony in that trial has been wrenching.
“My immediate feeling after the attack was as if my body had been cut in two, as if I had been deprived of a part of me,” Riss testified in a moving homage to his fallen friends and colleagues on September 9. “I miss him so much, it is an open wound that will never heal,” said Denise Charbonnier, the mother of the murdered editor-in-chief Charb, on September 10, before letting the court project on a screen some of her son’s most famous cartoons thrashing religious fanaticism and political extremism. “For a brief moment, smiles and laughs wiped the tears,” Belgium’s Belga news agency reported. Wrapping up their coverage of the first three weeks of the trial, Le Monde reporters Henri Seckel and Pascale Robert-Diard wrote, “We should not shake our notebooks too much, they are full of tears.”
Two employees of a TV company were stabbed outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo on September 25. The suspect in that terrorist attack had not been on the police radar as someone radicalized, although he was arrested in August for carrying a screwdriver. The satirical magazine had just republished the Mohammad cartoons the previous day.
The attacks have come after Macron’s government has sponsored legislation to address the growing problem of Islamic separatism in France. The French president has given ringing endorsements to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, saying the separatism threatens both in France.