By Stefan J. Bos
Grieving relatives and residents were laying flowers Saturday at the College du Bois d’Aulne secondary school in the Paris suburb of Conflans Sainte-Honorine.
They mourn the loss of 47-year-old Samuel Paty, the much-loved history and geography teacher who was beheaded nearby. Police shot dead the suspect, who was identified as an 18-year-old of Chechen origin.
The attacker was reportedly furious that teacher Paty had shown his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims consider blasphemous.
The teacher used the caricatures as part of a lesson on freedom of expression. They were first published five years by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, prompting Islamic terrorists to attack its offices.
After Friday’s beheading of the teacher, French President Emmanuel Macron rushed to the scene to express his outrage about what he views as Islamist terrorism. “One of our citizens was murdered today because he taught students about freedom of expression. The liberty to believe and not to believe,” Macron said.
“Our compatriot was flagrantly attacked. He was a victim of an Islamist terrorist attack.”
The teacher had reportedly upset Muslims at the school. Authorities said they detained some nine people, including parents of a child, on suspicion of involvement in Friday’s attack.
The violence was adding to tensions in France, where people face several terror attacks in recent years, killing hundreds. The French also cope with new restrictions to halt the coronavirus pandemic.