French teacher killed over cartoon

People pay their respects to Samuel Paty October 17

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

People pay their respects to Samuel Paty October 17

   French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded on the streets of a Paris suburb on Friday, October 16. The slaying was provoked by controversy over a cartoon Paty had shown his students in class earlier that month. Paty was a 47-year-old civics teacher at the College du Bois d’Aulne in the fringes of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.

   Paty’s lesson involving the cartoon was meant to educate his pupils on the topic of freedom of expression. The caricature was mocking the Prophet Mohammed, but the specific cartoon has not been officially shown to the public. The teacher had warned his religious students of the possible offense prior to showing the cartoon, and he invited them to exit the classroom if they didn’t want to see the cartoon. For Muslims, any lampooning of the Prophet is seen as offensive. 

   FRANCE 24 interviewed Nordine Chaouadi, the father of a 13-year-old student in Paty’s civics class. Chaouadi and his family are Muslims and shared their experience regarding the incident. His son described Paty’s actions of warning his Muslim pupils as kind and respectful towards their faith. Although this family was understanding of the lesson, multiple other Muslim families took great offense which led to a meeting held at the school. 

   “It went well,” Chaouadi explained, “There was no shouting or talking over each other. My wife took part in it. She said it was a man who made a mistake, it happens to everyone.” 

   Blasphemy can shock and offend people, but it is not illegal; therefore, Paty did not face any severe punishment for the incident. The public was still upset over Paty’s controversial teachings, bringing 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov to pursue further action. Students identified their teacher to his attacker and the gruesome killing took place soon after.

   The 18-year-old beheaded Paty in broad daylight in the middle of the street and was shot dead by police shortly after.  A memorial for Samuel Paty was held in front of the school he taught at and was attended by many heartbroken students, co-workers, friends, and family. 

   The seven people involved in identifying and calling for Paty’s death are now being held for questioning. This act of terror and resentment has made it even more important in the Paris community and society to protect their freedoms of expression. 

   Economics teacher, Lucien Bonniere, speaking with FRANCE 24, stated, “This is extremely shocking. It is a barbaric and inhumane act, it attacks liberty and also freedom of expression, you could never imagine this happening to someone for just doing their job. Killing a teacher is incredibly serious, it is impossible to describe. And this barbaric method of decapitation is such a grotesquely violent gesture.”

   Many people are siding with Bonniere’s statement and are continuing to fight for freedom of expression in this macabre time. Protests, provoked by the murder, are calling for social reform and justice against Islamic communities spreading hate. Paty will be remembered for taking the risk of teaching about such a taboo issue for the sake of education. France has since awarded Samuel Paty with the Légion d’Honneur in his remembrance.