Freedom of Expression or Freedom to Offend? France’s Take on Samuel Patty’s Death
By: Nina Zevgolis
Anger from people in France is increasing after the brutal killing of a teacher in the cartoon controversy of Prophet Mohammad in France to history teacher Samuel patty. Mr. Patty was murdered on October 17th midday when a student of his school, Abdoullakh Azorov from Chechnya, Russia, stabbed him repeatedly, leaving him beheaded. Within minutes, police arrived at the scene but Azorov refused to surrender and shot back at police. Police shot the student dead minutes after his kill.
During his Civics class, the teacher organized a lesson on the topics of freedom of speech showed cartoons of Muhammad to his students. He shared the cartoons as part of the freedom of discussion. Many people have described the comics as a gruesome way to portray Muslims and a form of insulting. Displayed in the classroom- the comics were strictly put out for educational purposes, said Mr. Patty while explaining the drawings to his students. Azorov later asked students to point out the teacher in public in exchange for money and went ahead with beheading Mr. Patty.
Though this is France’s first case with the attack of a teacher, this is not the country’s first experience with murders and threats because of Hebdo comics or islamophobic attacks. Earlier years, the office of the French magazine Sharley Abdo was attacked. The magazine had printed cartoons related to Prophet Muhammad and Islam. The Yemen branch of Al Qaeda then set an attack on the headquarters of the Adbo office. That day 12 people, including famous cartoonists of France, were killed in this attack. The bringing of #JesuisCharlie movement came back five years later to mourn the death of Mr. Patty.
What France is experiencing now is a separation in its nation. Citizens don’t feel safe in their cities, and religious diversity is being attacked. Freedom of expression has been taught in French schools for decades now, but this acts causing a murder is leading police to call is an extremist Islamophobic terrorist attack.
In the French city of Montpellier and Toulouse, disputed cartoons of the Holy Prophet were displayed on the projector on the walls of several hotels to pay tribute to the late teacher. Large-scale armed police have been deployed in the city for its protection as well as cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, Jesus Christ and other saints of other religions being shown at hotels in France in support of diversity.
France since has been closing large-scale mosques like The Grand Mosque of Pantin to protect its Muslim citizens from possible terrorist attacks. The initiative helped them crackdown on anyone who was a suspect of seeking harm on Muslims and protecting their people.
Rallies and protests across the country have brought hundreds of thousands of teachers, students and citizens together to honour and defend Mr. Patty. The president of France, Emmanuel Macron and their premier minster, Jean Castex took part in these demonstrations and told their citizens; You have not scared us. We are not nervous. You can not divide us.
Police confirmed that 7 people were involved in this murder including two school kids and they are facing charges after Abdoullakh Anzorov. French President Emmanuel Macron called the murder an attack by “Islamic terrorists”. The two students who received money from Anzorov are now being charged with conspiracy to murder and helping a terrorist attack.
The press seems to have inspired many acts of hate, but officials refuse to put an end to the Abdo publishing. Premier Jean Castex claimed that the country is facing an attack against Muslims, and now more than ever they need to stay united to protect everyone.
Following the comments made by the premier, Muslims still do not feel protected in their hometowns and feel at risk for harassment and threats. France over the past years has been seeing more of a division in its population from Muslims and its supporters against islamophobia.
Since the killing of Mr. Patty, incidents in the country have come amid heightened racial tensions; On October 22nd, two Muslim women were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower in France by a woman who called them a “Radical Islamist.” On October 29th, three more people were stabbed and beheaded to death inside the Basilica-yet again, another islamophobia terrorist attack. The terrorist threat level in France is as high now as it was in 2015-16. Events considered by many as a manifestation of the negative perception of Islam and Muslims in the country.
While 70% of asked Muslims in the country found the comics offensive, their government remains in support of the Sharley Abdo comics. Macron in an interview responding to the attacks over the past month states;
“I will always defend in my country the freedom to speak, to write, to think, to draw”
In response to these attacks in France, as well as the country’s government decision of supporting the distribution of the comments, Arabic nations have boycotted French products selling in their stores. Premier Maron pleaded with the nations to put an end at once and that it was a movement pushed by radicals, but thousands of people worldwide have since taken part. The division in France between supporters and its phobes will continue to arise with other nations taking part in supporting the boycott.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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