October 19, 2020
- President Emmanuel Macron: Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country
- French teachers have long complained of tensions around religion and identity spilling over into the classroom
People look at flowers, outside Bois d’Aulne secondary school, placed in honor of slain history teacher Samuel Paty, October 19, 2020, in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, northwest of Paris. PHOTO: AFP
PARIS – French police on Monday launched a series of raids targeting extremist networks three days after the beheading of a history teacher who had shown his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.
The operation came a day after tens of thousands of people took part in rallies countrywide to honor history teacher Samuel Paty and defend freedom of expression.
Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin said “dozens” of individuals were being probed for suspected radicalization.
While they were “not necessarily linked” to Paty’s killing, the government aimed to send a message that there would be “not a minute’s respite for enemies of the Republic,” he added.
Darmanin said the government would also tighten the noose on NGOs with suspected links to extremist networks.
“Fear is about to change sides,” President Emmanuel Macron told a meeting of key ministers Sunday to discuss a response to the attack.
“Extremists should not be allowed sleep soundly in our country,” he said.
Paty, 47, was attacked on his way home from the junior high school where he taught in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Paris.
A photo of the teacher and a message confessing to his murder was found on the mobile phone of his killer, an 18-year-old Chechen man Abdullakh Anzorov, who was shot dead by police.
The grisly killing has drawn parallels with the 2015 massacre at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine, where 12 people, including cartoonists, were gunned down for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Paty had shown his civics class one of the controversial cartoons.
According to his school, Paty had given Muslim children the option to leave the classroom before he showed the cartoon in a lesson on free speech, saying he did not want their feelings hurt.
The lesson sparked a furor nonetheless and Paty and his school received threats.