People around France are participating in rallies this afternoon to show solidarity and a determination to carry on as normal after the beheading of a teacher outside his Paris school for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Rallies are taking place in major centres such as Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nantes, Marseille, Lille and Bordeaux. Many are also happening in smaller towns around the shocked nation.
One of the Parisian venues is at Place de la République, where an estimated 1.5-million people took to the streets in 2015 to demonstrate against the deadly terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices that killed 12 people and injured 11 others.
Call to show support for teachers
Jean-Michel Blanquer, France’s education minister, has been calling for French people to turn out in their millions to show support for the country’s teachers following Friday’s killing.
“It is absolutely important to show our mobilisation and our solidarity, our national cohesion,” the minister said.
Paty, a teacher of history and geography, became the target of radical Islamist threats after he showed his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression.
Mindful of possibly causing offence
Mindful that the pictures could cause offence, he apparently requested students who may find them offensive to leave the class or to look away.
However, the parent of one child, a known Islamic militant according to some media reports, was sufficiently incensed that he launched an online call for ‘mobilisation’ against the teacher.
It is suspected that this call may have caused the lone assassin, an 18-year-old named only as Abdullakh A, to wait outside the school for Paty to leave on Friday.
Victim was beheaded on the scene
After asking other students to point out Paty, he launched his attack armed with a knife, an airgun and five canisters. His victim was beheaded on the scene and the assailant then fled.
A short time later he was tracked down by police and shot dead when he refused to surrender. A text claiming responsibility for the killing and a photograph of the victim were subsequently found on the suspect’s mobile phone.
Abdullakh A lived in the town of Evreux in the region of Normandy, about 100km from Paris. Locals there have described his as religious and low key.
Subsequent to the attack, investigators have detained 11 people for questioning. Among them are the parent who made the online call for ‘mobilisation’ and several members of Abdullakh A’s family.
Teachers will encourage ‘critical spirit’
Meanwhile, French teachers have vowed to continue encouraging their pupils’ ‘critical spirit’ by raising controversial subjects.
Before a meeting with the French education minister and the prime minister yesterday, Jean-Remi Girard, President of the secondary school teaching union, said teachers were “devastated” but would not be cowed.
“It is terrifying to see that in France in the 21st century, a teacher can be decapitated in the street for doing his job,” he lamented.