PARIS—A French imam said on Monday that the history teacher beheaded for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class was a martyr for freedom of speech, and he called on mosques in France to pray for the teacher on Friday. Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of the Paris suburb of Drancy’s mosque, warned against Islamist extremists and called on Muslim parents not to foster a hatred of France. Laying flowers outside the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine suburb school where the teacher was killed by an 18-year-old suspected Islamist of Chechen origin, Chalghoumi, accompanied by other Muslim leaders, told reporters it was time for the Muslim community to wake up to the dangers of Islamist extremism. “(The teacher) is a martyr for freedom of expression, and a wise man who has taught tolerance, civilisation and respect for others,” said Chalghoumi, who as president of the Imams of France Conference has regularly called for interfaith tolerance. He said Muslim authorities should see the beheading as a call for action. “Rectors of mosques, imams, parents, civil society groups, wake up, your future is at stake,” he said. He said Islamist extremists in France are well organised and know how to use the legal system and how far they can go. “We need to end the victimisation discourse. We all have rights in France, like everyone else. Parents should tell their children about the good that exists in this republic,” he said. A divisive figure in French Islam, Chalghoumi has had run-ins with Franco-Moroccan Islamist militant Abdelhakim Sefrioui, author of one of the videos in which the father of a girl in the school accused the teacher, Samuel Paty, of having insulted Islam. In 2010, as France was debating legislation about banning veils for Muslim women, Sefrioui had tried to get Chalghoumi ousted from the Drancy mosque, and Chalghoumi said he was placed under police protection after receiving death threats. By Antony Paone
PARIS—French police on Monday raided Islamic associations and foreigners suspected of extremist religious beliefs, three days after a suspected Islamist beheaded a school teacher. History teacher Samuel Paty, 47, was murdered on Friday in broad daylight outside his school in a middle-class Paris suburb by an 18-year-old of Chechen origin. Police shot the attacker dead. Hundreds of people gather on Republique square during a demonstration in Paris on Oct. 18, 2020. Demonstrations were held around France in support of freedom of speech and to pay tribute to slain history teacher Samuel Paty. (Michel Euler/AP Photo) The teenage assassin sought to avenge his victim’s use of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression to 13-year-olds. Muslims believe that any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous. Public figures called the killing an attack on the Republic and on French values. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said there were some 80 investigations being conducted into online hate and that he was looking into whether to disband about 50 associations within the Muslim community. A child holds up a a poster of Samuel Paty as people gather on Republique square in Lille, northern France, on Oct. 18, 2020. (Michel Spingler/AP Photo) “Police operations have taken place and more will follow, concerning tens of individuals,” the minister told Europe 1. Police detained 10 people in connection with the attack in the 24 hours that followed Paty’s killing. Among them, prosecutors said, were the father of a pupil at Paty’s school and another person on the radar of intelligence services, who they said had used social media to campaign against the teacher. Darmanin said the two men’s calls for action against Paty served as a Fatwa against him. By Sudip Kar-Gupta, Jean-Stephane Brosse, and Tangi Salaün
CONFLANS-SAINTE-HONORINE—French police were questioning nine people in custody on Saturday after a suspected Islamist sympathiser beheaded a school teacher in broad daylight on the street in a Paris suburb, police sources said. Police shot the attacker dead minutes after he murdered 47-year-old history teacher Samuel Paty on Friday. The killing shocked the country and carried echoes of an attack five years ago on the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Investigators were seeking to establish whether the attacker had acted alone or had accomplices. French media reported that he was an 18-year-old of Chechen origin. Prime Minister Jean Castex said the attack bore the hallmarks of Islamist terrorism. “I want to share with you my total indignation. Secularism, the backbone of the French Republic, was targetted in this vile act,” Castex said. Four relatives of the attacker, including a minor, were detained in the immediate aftermath of the attack in the middle-class suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, according to police sources. French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by French Junior Minister of Citizenship Marlene Schiappa, talks with officials as he visits the scene of a stabbing attack in the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine suburb of Paris, France on Oct. 16, 2020. (Abdulmonam Eassa/Pool via Reuters) Five more were detained overnight, among them two parents of pupils at the College du Bois d’Aulne where the teacher was employed. A week ago, one man who said his daughter was in Paty’s class recorded a video shared on social media in which he branded the teacher a thug and appealed to others to “join forces and say ‘stop, don’t touch our children'”. It was not clear whether the parent was one of those in police custody. It was also not immediately known if the attacker had seen the video. #IAMSAMUEL Parents of pupils laid flowers at the school gate. Some said their children were distraught. “(My daughter) is in pieces, terrorised by the violence of such an act. How will I explain to her the unthinkable?” one father wrote on Twitter. In an outpouring of grief, the hashtag #JeSuisSamuel (I am Samuel) trended on social media, like the #JeSuisCharlie call for solidarity after the attack on Charlie Hebdo in 2015. Before that attack, Charlie Hebdo had published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, unleashing divisions that still cast a pall over French society. Police officers secure the area near the scene of a stabbing attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine, France, Oct. 16, 2020. (Charles Platiau/Reuters) Addressing the country’s teachers, pupils and their parents, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said Paty was killed by what he called the enemies of freedom. “The Republic will never, never, never back down when confronted by terror, intimidation,” he said in a recorded statement. The litany of deadly attacks by Islamist terrorists or their sympathisers was devastating for France’s Muslim community, Tareq Oubrou, the imam of a Bordeaux mosque, said. “Every day that passes without incident we give thanks,” he told France Inter radio. “We are between hammer and anvil. It attacks the Republic, society, peace and the very essence of religion, which is about togetherness.” By Thierry Chiarello Epoch Times staff contributed to this report.