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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Teacher beheaded in France

Yann Caradec
Beheading of a teacher leaves France stunned

A teacher was beheaded in France on Oct. 16 after he presented caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to his class earlier this month. 

Samuel Paty, a 47-year-old history teacher, was beheaded outside of the school he worked at in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a town northwest of Paris. According to BBC, the crime was committed by an 18-year-old Chechen man, Abdullakh Anzorov, who was subsequently shot dead by the police.

According to Aljazeera, the attacker was born in Russia but had been living in the town of Evreux, which is northwest of Paris.

The New York Times reported that the conflict arose on Oct. 6, when Paty showed cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in a class discussing freedom of speech. The cartoons had been published in a controversial satirical magazine called Charlie Hebdo

According to CNN, Early Muslims forbade the creation of idols of Muhammed to make the distinction that the Prophet is a man and not a god. 

Lampooning Muhammed can be seen as deeply offensive. According to The Guardian, the magazine’s offices have been attacked for controversial content like this in 2011, 2015 and 2020.

In 2015’s attack, 12 people were killed and 11 others were injured. In 2020’s attack, two people were badly injured.

According to Aljazeera, four school children were held by French police on suspicion of helping the killer behind Paty’s death. They were among 15 people being held over the incident. One has previously been convicted for terrorism-related crimes and had contact with the killer.

Aljazeera also reported that Friday’s killing sparked outrage in France and drew condemnation from political parties and President of France Emmanuel Macron, who called the crime an “Islamist terrorist attack.”

According to BBC, police have raided some 40 homes following the attack, and the government also ordered a mosque to close for six months.

“Macron continues to build his Islamophobic portfolio by seeking to expel Muslims from France unconnected to the recent attack and with aims to ban Muslim civil orgs,” said Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani author, on Twitter. 

The First Lady of France Brigette Macron, who is a former teacher, sent an open-letter to Paty. 

“Today we are all teachers,” she wrote. “Being a teacher is about transmitting and anticipating … It’s about developing pupils’ critical spirit to make them free. All that, Samuel, you knew, and better still, you were its incarnation.”

Françoise Lorcerie, an education expert at the National Center for Scientific Research, told The New York Times, she had never heard of using the caricatures of the Prophet in a classroom setting for students of that age, and she was critical of Paty’s invitation to Muslim students that they leave the class to avoid being offended.

While France has been a secular nation that claims to have honored the separation of church and state since 1905, many presidents have tried to control the country’s Muslim community to, according to them, align with this secular approach. As a result, Muslims feel that they are being excluded from the French society.

According to Suffolk University professor Kristofer Petersen-Overton, even though the U.S. has the same secular government as France, including the separation of church and state, France has forbidden religious clothing at any government property, including public schools. However, people can wear religious clothing in private schools, said Petersen-Overton.

“This kind of radicalization is very much a homegrown European phenomenon more than a uniquely Muslim phenomenon,” Petersen-Overton said, referring to these actions against the Muslim community in France. 

According to DW, France has a problem with the stigmatization of its French-Muslim community. In February, Macron announced a bull that would be introduced in December 2020. The main idea of this bill would be to preserve France’s secular state by keeping religion including displays of religiosity outside of education and the public sector. Among other areas, the bill is expected to further crack down on foreign financing of mosques.

“Secularism is the cement of a united France,” Macron said in a speech.


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Thomas Pholnikorn, Staff Writer | he/him
Thomas is currently a junior from Thailand. In his free time, he ventures into the realm of endless possibilities and imagination. Ultimately, there are three things he is searching for: shapeless love, certain kindness, and never fading hope.

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    David RubinOct 28, 2020 at 12:48 am

    I just want to point out that what the French call secular is not what America calls secular. We would not forbid showing religion or any aspect of it. Also, are the French as secular toward Islamic people as they are toward other faiths? Would I be treated as badly if I wore a cross or yamuka?

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Teacher beheaded in France