Friday

4th Dec 2020

France marks trauma of history teacher's murder

  • Black ribbon on European Parliament flag in 2015 after attack on Charlie Hebdo (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

French people have held rallies in outrage over the murder of a history teacher by an Islamist extremist.

Tens of thousands met on the streets of Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Lille, Strasbourg and other cities on Sunday (18 October) in protest over the killing on Friday.

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They held placards and chanted in support of free speech and education.

They also paid tribute to Samuel Paty, the teacher, who was beheaded by a lone attacker on Friday for showing pupils a toxic cartoon of Muslim prophet Mohammed in his class.

Kamel Kabtane, a senior Muslim figure who is the rector of the Lyon mosque, told the AFP news agency Paty had been "doing his job" in a "respectful" way.

"These terrorists are not religious but are using religion to take power," Kabtane said.

The rallies took place despite a nationwide coronavirus alert, with new curfew laws coming into force on Saturday.

French president Emmanuel Macron also marked the political shock of the crime.

He called it a "cowardly attack" and a "terrorist Islamist attack" against the French "republic and all its values", speaking outside Paty's school in a Paris suburb on Friday.

"This evening I want to say to teachers all over France, we we are with them, the whole nation is with them today and tomorrow. We must protect them, defend them," Macron said.

The killer, Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police, was an 18-year old refugee from the Russian province of Chechnya who had lived in France since he was six.

There was no information whether he acted alone.

But French authorities detained 11 people, including his relatives, in the immediate aftermath.

France plans to expel 231 foreign nationals whom it defines as "extremists" in response, French radio broadcaster Europe 1 reported.

It also plans to crack down on illicit money flows, French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told France 3 Television on Sunday.

"There is a problem of financing a number of Islamist associations on which I think we can and must do better," he said.

"Cryptocurrencies pose a real problem," he added.

Friday's murder took place during a trial on the attack against French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015 for publishing the Mohammed cartoons, which killed 12 people.

France is home to the EU's largest Muslim minority of 5 million people and to one of its strongest far-right parties, the Rassemblement national.

Most placards at Sunday's rallies said "Je suis Samuel" or declared values such as "No to totalitarianism of thought", French media reported.

"Freedom of expression, freedom to teach!", people chanted in Paris.

But other feelings were also on show.

"No to Islamisation" and "Nazislamisation is cutting our throats," some placards said.

"Islamism is waging a war on us: it is by force that we must drive it out of our country," Rassemblement national leader Marine Le Pen also said.

For his part, Macron urged French people not to let the crime divide them.

"This is our battle and it is existential. They [terrorists] will not succeed … They will not divide us," he said in Paris.

"We must stand all together as citizens," Macron said.

Paty, who was 47, left behind a wife and a five-year old son.

His killing attracted international attention.

"[This] crime has no relation to Russia, because this person had lived in France for the past 12 years", Sergei Parinov, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Paris said in Russia's Tass news agency on Saturday.

The Egyptian foreign ministry offered its "sincere condolences" to Paty's family and to French people.

It also promised to help France "combat the phenomenon of terrorism, violence, and extremism, in all its forms and manifestations", in its communiqué.

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