Samuel Paty: Secular France finds itself at a crossroads after assault on instructor

Samuel Paty: Secular France finds itself at a crossroads after assault on instructor

Seventeen individuals had been killed and long-simmering tensions over secularism, Islamism and spiritual equality erupted into public view. Anti-immigration rhetoric focusing on France’s Muslim communities additionally turned more and more frequent. Since then, these divides have solely worsened with additional assaults and the following fallout.

Final Friday, instructor Samuel Paty was beheaded in a terrorist assault within the northern Paris suburb of Éragny after displaying the controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons to his college students throughout a lesson, anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-François Ricard mentioned.

The 47-year-old’s homicide has now reignited the long-simmering battle over secularism in France.

In early October, a matter of days earlier than Paty’s homicide, French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned: “There may be on this radical Islamism, a methodical group to contravene the legal guidelines of the Republic and create a parallel order, to erect different values.” Macron was talking in Les Mureaux, a north-western suburb of Paris the place officers have been working with the Muslim group to fight Islamist extremism.

Paty’s demise was met with horror throughout France.

Macron paid tribute to the instructor, whom he mentioned was “killed as a result of he was educating college students freedom of speech, the liberty to imagine and never imagine.”

Hundreds gathered in and across the Place de la République in Paris on Sunday, to have a good time free speech and decry violence. Related emotional demonstrations had been held throughout the nation.

A nationwide memorial occasion for Paty can be held on Wednesday night in Paris.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks on October 16 after Paty's death.

Freedom of expression

Paty, who was 47, taught historical past and geography on the Collège du Bois d’Aulne. He used the cartoons in a category on freedom of expression — a core tenet of French life.

He had warned Muslim college students concerning the photos prematurely, providing them the prospect to decide out of the session. Even so, the lesson sparked controversy within the weeks previous his demise, with one dad or mum on the faculty lobbying for Paty’s dismissal.

On October 7, that dad or mum posted a video on Fb calling for motion in opposition to the instructor. The person publicly recognized Paty, and demanded that the college dismiss him, based on France’s nationwide anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-François Ricard.

A day later, the person filed a grievance concerning the class; Paty, in flip, filed a grievance for defamation. On October 12, the dad or mum printed a second video on YouTube focusing on the instructor.

The person who killed Paty was a refugee of Chechen origin, recognized as Abdoullakh Abouyezidovitch A. The 18-year-old approached college students outdoors the college and requested them to level out his sufferer, Ricard mentioned in an announcement on October 17. Abouyezidovitch attacked Paty as he walked residence after work. {The teenager} was not identified to intelligence companies.

Earlier than police gunned him down afterward Friday, Abouyezidovitch posted on Twitter that he had executed certainly one of Macron’s “canines of hell,” who had belittled the revered prophet, Ricard mentioned.

A woman holds a placard reading "I am a teacher" as people gather on the Vieux Port in Marseille on October 18, in homage to history teacher Samuel Paty.

The love of laïcité

Secularism — referred to as “laïcité” in French — is deeply ingrained in French tradition, with many believing that nothing — not even one’s faith — ought to come earlier than nationwide identification. But for these with a robust religion, this tenet is a fancy one to carry.

“It is an activist secularism,” Catherine Fieschi, director of the International Coverage Institute at London’s Queen Mary College, instructed CNN.

“Laïcité is a tenet of the Republic, it is cross-party. This cuts throughout the spectrum — leftist social democrats are simply as in opposition to faith within the public realm as [those on the right.]”

Fieschi mentioned secularist legal guidelines had been intensifying since 1989. She believes Macron’s choice to crack down on extremists could also be a optimistic transfer for many French Muslims, as the federal government is opting to deal with extremist organizations and hate speech, fairly than group integration.

“Macron has moved more and more onto this territory for the reason that summer season,” she mentioned. “He has shifted to speaking about separatism, not integration. They don’t seem to be attacking the communities however these […] vectors of hate, which can be in search of to undermine these communities. They don’t seem to be mentioning integration, that is not the dialog.

 A woman holds a picture of Samuel Paty, at the Place de la Liberte in Lille on October 18.

“I feel we’d really see this as a turning level,” Fieschi added, explaining that the truth that Abouyezidovitch “will not be from a former French colony … that in lots of respects … offers the chance to French Muslim residents to really feel they are not being focused by the federal government.”

Crackdown on radical Islamism

Paty’s killing got here simply weeks after two individuals had been critically injured in a knife assault close to Charlie Hebdo’s former places of work.

The French state responded to Paty’s homicide with bullish measures. Judicial sources instructed CNN that 15 individuals had been being questioned over the assault. These in custody embody the dad or mum who referred to as for the instructor’s dismissal and members of the attacker’s household. College students suspected of serving to the perpetrator determine Paty are additionally in custody, the sources mentioned.

Macron and his authorities have been fast to declare a crackdown on extremist Islamists.

On Tuesday, the President mentioned French residents — particularly Muslim residents — wanted to be protected against radical Islamism, which goals “to show a few of our residents in opposition to the Republic, due to their faith. We won’t let this occur.”

“What our residents anticipate from us are actions,” Macron mentioned. “And these actions can be intensified.”

He mentioned dozens of measures had already been taken in opposition to organizations and people “pushing ahead a radical Islamist undertaking, in different phrases, an ideology aimed toward destroying the Republic,” including that the investigation into Paty’s beheading would present that a few of these organizations “had been concerned in Friday’s assaults.”

Additional actions can be introduced within the coming days and weeks, Macron mentioned.

On Monday, France’s inside minister Gérald Darmanin mentioned greater than 80 on-line hate messages could be investigated within the wake of Paty’s homicide, including that there would “not be a second of respite for the enemies of our Republic.”

Darmanin mentioned on Twitter that 51 organizations and non-profit teams could be visited by state companies this week, and several other could be dissolved. The minister can also be working to shut a mosque within the northern suburbs of Paris. Darmanin mentioned its director was a type of who re-posted a message calling for Paty to be threatened. The submit additionally included the college’s location.

Non secular discrimination

France is residence to greater than 5 million Muslims — the overwhelming majority will not be radical Islamists, however many are nonetheless affected by the nation’s secular laws.

A collection of French legal guidelines have curbed how Muslim ladies costume during the last 20 years.

In 2004 hijabs had been banned together with Jewish skullcaps and huge Christian crosses in public faculties. Burqas and niqabs, which cowl the face, had been banned in 2011.

Legislators who supported the legislation, together with then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, mentioned the clothes threatened French secularism and had been debasing to ladies.

In a 2019 survey by pollsters Ifop, greater than 40% of French Muslims questioned mentioned they’d skilled non secular discrimination within the nation at the least as soon as of their lives. That very same month, 1000’s marched in an anti-Islamophobia demonstration by means of Paris, based on Reuters.
Head of far-right party Rassemblement National Marine Le Pen speaks to the press three days after the beheading of Samuel Paty.

The duty Macron now faces is certainly one of colossal significance.

He’s a 12 months and a half away from an election, by which his primary opponent is prone to be Marine Le Pen, the far proper politician who, within the aftermath of Paty’s demise, referred to as for the “eradication of Islamism” in France.

Macron has mixed his strikes in opposition to radical Islamism with public messages of unity.

“We will stand collectively with none distinction, as a result of we’re at the beginning residents united by the identical values, a historical past, a future,” he mentioned on October 16.

Zamira Rahim wrote in London, Pierre Bairin and Melissa Bell reported from Paris. Pierre Buet, Martin Goillandeau, Barbara Wojazer, Gaelle Fournier and Lindsay Isaac contributed to this story.

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