As further details emerged, the incident led to some of the most explosive debates in the French national lexicon: the value of free expression in a country that, unlike the United States, complied with hate laws. speech, and the place of Islam in a nominally secular but post-colonial society where Muslims belong to the largest minority group.
French authorities identified the victim as 47-year-old Samuel Paty, who taught both history and geography at a school in the northwestern Paris town of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. The culprit, who was shot by police, was identified as Abdoulakh A., an 18-year-old Chechen immigrant from what President Emmanuel Macron did not hesitate to call an “Islamic terrorist attack.”
“This is our fight, and it has,” Macron said on Friday, speaking from the crime scene.
French authorities generally did not disclose the surnames of the suspects.
Police detained four relatives of the suspect immediately after the attack, according to Reuters. Five other people were detained overnight, including the father of a student at Paty’s school, the College du Bois d’Aulne, and an acquaintance of the student’s father known for intelligence services.
Jean-François Ricard, France’s leading anti-terrorism prosecutor, told a news conference on Saturday that a photo of the teacher’s body had been found on the attacker’s cellphone. The image was posted on Twitter with a statement claiming responsibility for the attack “in the name of Allah.” The post was removed, and Twitter suspended the account.
The attack on Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a quiet, middle-class enclave, is the latest iteration of what has become a very frequent plot in France: the public release of Muhammad’s cartoons followed by deadly revenge.
In fact, Paty recently showed her students the cartoons of Muhammad that are precisely because of that heritage, as part of a lesson on free expression amid the ongoing trial of Charlie Hebdo.
Last month opened the long-awaited trial of 14 alleged accomplices in the January 2015 attack on the offices of Europe’s most popular newspaper, targeted by two French al-Qaeda affiliates because it had previously been published. the cartoons Muhammad. Twelve people, including nine journalists from the newspaper, were killed.
To mark the beginning of the trial, Charlie Hebdo republished a symbolic cover of Muhammad’s cartoons.
Paty’s decision to show these drawings to teenage children raised eyebrows, along with some Muslim parents who complained to the school leadership, French media reported. One of the injured parents took his argument to social media, which is probably how the suspect – who had no known relationship with the school or the parent’s misunderstanding – found out about the issue, authorities suggested.
But according to some parents, Paty also tried to be as sensitive as possible to the offensive potential of the images she wanted to discuss.
Nordine Chaouadi, a parent of a 13-year-old in Paty’s class, told Agence France-Presse that she allowed Muslim students to leave the classroom during the discussion.
“At some point he wanted to be disrespectful – that’s what my son told me,” he said.
Ricard told the conference that the suspect was hiding outside the school early Friday afternoon, and he asked the students to point out to Paty their departure. He then cut off his victim.
The attack also came amid Macron’s push to fight what he called “Islamist separatism” in a keynote address this month. Widely conceived, “reform” Islam has been an elusive goal of French presidents ’policy since the late 1980s, but recent events may have thrown it away in a more urgent light.
Beyond Friday’s attack, the opening of the trial in Charlie Hebdo saw another attack last month: A 25-year-old Pakistani immigrant stabbed two people outside former offices of the newspaper, which he unknowingly moved to a new location.
Macron declared a national memorial for Wednesday, and a demonstration in honor of Paty was scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Paris.
In a statement, Charlie Hebdo expressed a “feeling of fear and uprising after a teacher in the line of duty was killed by a religious fanatic.”
“We express our deep support to her family, her loved ones and all the teachers.”