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France: investigation and fear after the “Islamist attack” against a professor

PARIS | The investigation was progressing and tributes poured in on Saturday in France, the day after the “Islamist terrorist attack” in which an 18-year-old Chechen Russian beheaded a college professor for showing his students caricatures of Muhammad, in a country that questions religious separatism.

• Read also: Decapitated teacher: in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, parents and residents in shock

• Read also: Victim of an “Islamist attack”, a decapitated history teacher in the Paris region

In single file, dozens of students and parents followed one another to place a white rose at the foot of the gates of Le Bois d’Aulne college in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, near Paris. Not a word, not a sound, just a few “I am a teacher” posters waved as a challenge to the horror.

Three weeks after an Islamist attack in which a Pakistani man injured two people in front of the former offices of the satirical weekly with a chopper Charlie Hebdo, and in the midst of a debate on the preservation of secularism in the face of communitarian assaults, Friday’s assassination revolted the country and investigators took to the track on Saturday.

A total of nine people have been arrested and placed in police custody since Friday evening, relatives of the assailant, but also parents of students of the college Le Bois d’Aulne.

According to the various elements that emerged, the professor, Samuel Paty, had organized with his students, as every year, a debate planned as part of civic education, during which he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. He then invited the Muslim students who wished to leave the room.

Father of pupil arrested

The father of a student, placed in police custody, was indignant at this course in a video posted on social networks.

On September 25, the former premises of Charlie Hebdo were targeted by an attack after the newspaper republished cartoons of Muhammad during the trial of the accomplices of the assailants in the January 2015 attacks. The latter, who had executed 12 people, claimed to act in retaliation after the publication of those same caricatures.

The assailant of Conflans is an 18-year-old Russian Chechen born in Moscow, according to investigators.

On Friday, around 5 p.m. (local time), he beheaded Mr. Paty, a 47-year-old history and geography teacher, near the college where he was teaching in a quiet area of ​​Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, before being killed by police called for help 200 m away.

Mr. Paty “was fully in his job,” he “liked a lot,” said Friday Martial, a 16-year-old high school student, rushed to his old college. “He really wanted to teach us things. From time to time, we had debates, we spoke ”.

“Our teachers will continue to awaken the critical spirit of the citizens of the Republic, to emancipate them from all totalitarianism and all obscurantism,” Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Twitter.

“I will be, and our country will be at your side to protect you, allow you to do your job which is the most essential job, pass on to our children the knowledge and values ​​which are our common good”, declared the Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, in a video message to teachers, a particularly important social category in the French socio-political landscape. For 30 years, national education has been at the forefront of the demands of certain Muslim circles.

The Élysée announced on Saturday that a national tribute would be paid to Mr. Paty.

The national anti-terrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard must make a first point of the investigation in front of the press on Saturday at 9 am.

Separatism

The president, Emmanuel Macron, had meanwhile visited the scene Friday evening, calling the assassination a “characterized Islamist terrorist attack”.

“They will not pass. Obscurantism will not win ”, hammered, moved, the Head of State, in a country where the signs of tensions caused by the Islamists are regular, triggering a response from the authorities to preserve the secular values ​​of the Republic. A response itself denounced by certain Muslim organizations or political opponents as “Islamophobic”.

It is in this context that the government recently presented a bill against separatism, intended to “strengthen secularism and republican principles” and to “fight against the main separatism that is radical Islam”, according to the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.

Outside France, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, notably sent her “condolences to her family and to the French. My thoughts are also with the teachers, in France and everywhere in Europe. Without them there are no citizens. Without them, there is no democracy ”.

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