For teacher in France, civics class led to horrific death

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CONFLANS-SAINTE-HONORINE, France (Reuters) – The college professor, stabbed to death on Friday in a street in a Paris suburb, showed his teenage students a cartoon ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad as part of a class on freedom of speech earlier this month, the parents said.

A view shows the scene of a knife attack in the Paris suburb of Conflans St Honorine, France, October 16, 2020. REUTERS / Charles Platiau

Nordine Chaouadi told Reuters he was the father of a 13-year-old student who attended the teacher’s civics class, which parents gathered outside the college referred to as Mr. Paty. French media identified him as Samuel Paty.

The teacher had asked Muslim students to raise their hands and invited them to leave, telling them that he would show a caricature of Mohammad that could offend, Chaouadi said.

For Muslims, any representation of the prophet is blasphemous.

Chaouadi said her son, a Muslim, interpreted the teacher’s actions as being done out of kindness and respect for their faith.

“He did it to protect the children, not to shock them,” Chaouadi said.

Some parents, however, took offense. Two or three days later, they held a meeting at the school with the teacher, the school principal and an official from the school authority.

” It went well. There was no shouting or conversation between them. My wife attended. She said it was a man who had made a mistake, it happens to everyone, ”added Chaouadi.

A man who said his daughter was in the class gave a similar account of the lesson in a video recorded around the time of the meeting. However, he called the history professor a thug and posted the video on social media. The post was shared by a mosque in Paris, among others.

Reuters was unable to immediately authenticate the video.

In the video, the man says, “If you want to join forces and say ‘stop, touch our children, then send me a message.’

“This thug must not stay in the national education system, must not teach our children any more. He should go and learn, ”he continues in the recording.

The school, Collège du Bois d’Aulne in the bourgeois suburb of Conflans-Saint-Honorine, could not be contacted immediately for comment.

It is not known whether the attacker, who was shot by police and was not named, saw the video.

Lawmakers and teachers’ unions hailed the courage of the slain teacher to face difficult taboos in French society. Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle of democracy, they said.

Jean-Remi Girard, president of the National Union of School Teachers, told BFM TV that children should understand that blasphemy can be shocking, but that it is legal.

Blood has already been spilled in France because of the satire aimed at Islam. Islamist activists killed 12 people in a shooting in the office of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015 after they published a series of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Local center-right MP Antoine Savignat said: “If we can’t talk about Charlie Hebdo cartoons at school, we find ourselves in denial… In France, a country of freedom of expression, this cannot be not happen.

Written by Richard Lough, edited by Rosalba O’Brien

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