French teachers pledge to “teach difficult subjects” after the murder of a colleague | World news

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Shocked French teachers vowed to continue to encourage ‘critical thinking’ in their students by raising disputed topics after an Islamic terrorist beheaded a high school teacher who showed his students caricatures of the Prophet in the frame of a discussion on freedom of expression.Representatives of teachers’ unions met with Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and Prime Minister Jean Castex on Saturday, hours after the death of 47-year-old history and geography professor Samuel Paty.

Ahead of the meeting, Jean-Rémi Girard, president of the secondary teachers’ union, said the teachers were “devastated” but would not be intimidated. “It is terrifying that in France in the 21st century a teacher can be beheaded in the street for doing his job,” Girard said.

“We will continue to talk about freedom of expression. If there are difficult subjects, we will continue to teach them. We will try to encourage critical thinking in our students and to explain that everyone has the right to disagree.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who described the murder as a “typical Islamist terrorist attack”, said France was engaged in an “existential” battle against terrorism.

The 18-year-old killer was born in Moscow but has Chechen roots. His family arrived in France when he was a child, investigators said. Police were questioning his parents, grandfather and 17-year-old brother and yesterday arrested five other people, including the father of a school student and an acquaintance known to the intelligence services.

A tenth person was taken into custody in connection with the attack later Saturday, French news channel BFM TV said, citing judicial sources.

Paty was taking a moral and civic education course on October 5 at his school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, north-west of Paris. These courses are compulsory and cover topics such as secularism, the death penalty and abortion.

As part of a discussion about free speech, Paty showed the class some of the controversies Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Realizing that this might offend some of his Muslim students, Paty suggested that they might look away or leave the class.

Subsequently, the school received complaints about the use of the cartoon in the lesson and asked Paty to resign.

After a meeting between the school principal, teachers, parents and education officials, the parents filed a formal complaint. Paty filed a “defamation” counter-complaint.

A student’s father posted a video on YouTube calling the teacher a ‘thug’ who needed to ‘go back to school himself’ and calling on parents to join him in demanding that the teacher do so. subject to disciplinary action.

The teacher had gone to the local police station, along with the school principal, earlier this month after a legal complaint about his lesson.

He reportedly told investigators that he couldn’t figure out what had happened because the father’s daughter who complained was not in class the day he showed the cartoon.

The teacher lived near the school and used to walk through a wood to get home, but had recently decided to change his route through a residential area because he felt threatened.

The college received several “threatening calls” over the next few days. Counterterrorism prosecutor Jean-François Ricard said police are trying to establish events from the perspective of the crime and whether the killer had accomplices.

A mourning crowd including fellow teachers, local politicians and officials, and Paty’s alumni gathered outside his school on Saturday.

Even in a country that has faced some of the worst acts of terrorism in Europe in the past eight years, Friday’s murder was shocking in its savagery, unleashing a wave of anger, angst and revulsion throughout the world. France.

On social networks, the hashtag #JeSuisProf (I am a teacher) emerged and went viral, recalling #JeSuisCharlie, the 2015 expression of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo after a massacre in his offices.

For France, the fight against terrorism and the prevention of the radicalization of local jihadists has become what Macron described on Friday as an “existential battle”. Paris has been on high alert in recent weeks after the trial of 14 people suspected of being linked to the 2015 attacks opened in September.

But for the country’s intelligence agencies and police, the struggle in recent times has shifted not only from thwarting planned large-scale terrorist actions, but also identifying individuals – often young – who are not on the radar of the police. security services and are not flagged as a threat risk.

To mark the opening of the long-awaited hearing – which will last until November – Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including those that led Islamist gunmen Said and Cherif Kouachi to attack his offices. killing 12 people, and Amédy Coulibaly to shoot a policeman and kill four people at the Hyper Cacher supermarket.

The reprint of the cartoons in turn led an 18-year-old Pakistan-born man to stab and seriously injure two people outside the former offices of Charlie Hebdo in what the French authorities described as “clearly an act of terrorism” three weeks ago.

Ricard said the teacher was “murdered for teaching” and that the attack violated the principle of free speech. “This is the second attack to take place during the Charlie Hebdo trial which shows the high level of terrorist threat we are facing, ”said Ricard.

On Frida, Abdallah Zekri, president of the Observatory of Islamophobia, described Friday’s beheading as “a terrible and horrible act committed in the name of my religion under the pretext of Charlie Hebdo».

“It was a cowardly and criminal act that everyone in France must denounce,” he said.

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