A source close to the investigation said the mosque, which has around 1,500 worshipers, posted a Facebook video about Samuel Paty days before the 47-year-old history and geography professor was beheaded last Friday.
The video sharply criticized Paty’s decision to show his class – after giving Muslim students the option to leave if they felt uncomfortable – two caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad alongside other cartoons in the frame of a class discussion on freedom of expression.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said on Tuesday that Paty would posthumously receive France’s highest honor, the Legion of Honor. A national ceremony will be organized in his honor at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Wednesday.
The teacher was stabbed and beheaded outside his high school in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, about 20 miles northwest of Paris, by an 18-year-old of Chechen descent named Abdullakh Anzorov who was shot dead by police a little after.
Paris prosecutors said on Tuesday they had opened an investigation into a French neo-Nazi website hosted abroad that reposted the photo of Paty’s decapitated corpse posted on Twitter by the killer.
A young interior minister, Marlène Schiappa, met with senior leaders of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat on Tuesday to discuss ways to better tackle what the ministry has called “cyber-Islamism.”
French officials and politicians have said Paty’s murder should be a catalyst for new legislation in France – and possibly the EU – aimed at making social media platforms more accountable for the content they host.
Paty’s murder was preceded by a fierce online campaign against the teacher and the school, led by the father of a student who had not attended the lesson. He posted a number of videos calling for Paty’s dismissal, one of which was shared by the mosque.
Father and Abdelhakim Sefrioui, a well-known radical Islamist who also posted videos online and campaigned for Paty’s deportation, were among the 16 people arrested in connection with the murder, including four family members of Anzorov.
Four students from the school suspected of agreeing to pay for pointing the finger at the assailant Paty were also among the detainees on Tuesday.
The Education Ministry has flatly denied rumors circulating, particularly on far-right websites, that the local education authority had prepared to reprimand Paty for showing the cartoons. The ministry said the teacher had behaved quite appropriately and was assured of the full support of the authority.
Darmanin on Monday accused Sefriou and the father of having issued a “fatwa” against Paty. Pantin mosque chief M’hammed Henniche said on Tuesday he shared the video because he felt Muslim children were selected in class.
Authorities are targeting suspicious groups within the Muslim community and have said they plan to disband several. Darmanin and French President Emmanuel Macron were due to attend a special meeting of the national anti-Islamist committee on Tuesday.
Macron is under pressure to find an effective response to the latest in a series of Islamist terrorist attacks that have rocked France since the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015, in which 12 people were killed in the offices of the satirical weekly after have published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
More than 240 people have died as a result of Islamist violence since 2015, prompting opposition politicians – particularly on the right – to accuse the government of waging a battle of words rather than taking decisive action.