Tributes poured in in France on Saturday, the day after the “Islamist terrorist attack” which saw an 18-year-old Chechen refugee behead a teacher who showed his students caricatures of Muhammad. The country is wondering about religious “separatism”.
Referring to “the extreme gravity of the facts and their immense repercussions”, the anti-terrorist prosecutor Jean-François Ricard gave some details on the attack on Saturday afternoon. On site, dozens of students and parents followed one another to place a white rose at the foot of the gates of the Bois d’Aulne college in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, near Paris.
Mr. Ricard said the assailant, shot by police, was a Russian refugee of Chechen origin, born in 2002 and legally present on French soil. But he did not say if he had a connection to the college. The Russian embassy clarified that the man no longer had any connection with his country.
Ten people in custody
The magistrate also specified that a message of claim posted on Twitter just after the murder, making the link with Muhammad, indeed emanated from this individual.
A total of ten people have been arrested and taken into custody since Friday evening. They are relatives of the assailant, but also the father of one of the teacher’s students, who had delivered him to the vengeance on social networks, as well as a very active Islamist activist, Abdelhakim Sefrioui.
According to the elements revealed by Mr. Ricard, the professor had organized with his students a debate, planned as part of the civic education classes, during which he showed caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. He then suggested to the students who wished not to look at certain drawings.
“High level” of terrorist threat
The father of a student, placed in police custody, was indignant about this course in several videos, making public on the internet the name of the professor and the address of the college. He met with Abdelhakim Sefrioui the principal to ask for his dismissal.
After these publications, “the main one reported many threatening (telephone) calls received by the college,” said the prosecutor. According to him, the assailant was stationed in front of the college on Friday around midday and asked students to point out the 47-year-old teacher.
“This terrorist crime is the second committed while the trial hearings” of the accomplices of the attackers in the attack on Charlie Hebdo in January 2015 are taking place. “This confirms the very high level of the Islamist terrorist threat,” said Mr. Ricard.
Awaken the critical mind
The Elysee Palace announced that a national tribute would be paid to the murdered professor on Wednesday. Without delay, several associations and unions called for gatherings on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. in Paris and in many other cities, including Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux.
On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in Nice or Rennes to denounce an “act of barbarism” and defend “the values of democracy”.
The teacher “was fully in his job”, which he “liked a lot”, confided 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 totalitarianisms and all obscurantisms,” 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.
For 30 years, national education has been at the forefront of the demands of certain Muslim circles.
President Emmanuel Macron visited the scene on Friday evening, describing the assassination as a “characterized Islamist terrorist attack”. “They will not pass. Obscurantism will not win”, hammered the head of state, moved.
The signs of tensions caused by the Islamists are regular in France. They trigger a response from the authorities to preserve the secular values of the Republic. A reply itself denounced by certain Muslim organizations 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.