And yet, now he finds himself at the very heart of the French national debate after a truly gruesome murder on its streets.
Samuel Paty, 47, a well-respected teacher, was attacked and beheaded while walking down the street at 5 p.m. Her killer, only 18, was later shot dead by police as he walked along a nearby road.
In a few hours, President Emmanuel Macron was at the scene, visiting the school where Mr. Paty taught history and geography.
Macron normally likes to give long, passionate speeches, but here his speech was shorter and more sober. He looked dumbfounded but called for unity, while describing the murder as an act of “Islamist terror”. The Minister of Education, Jean-Michael Blanquer, called this murder an attack on the French Republic.
At the school where Mr. Paty was teaching, there was a long line of teachers, parents and students on Saturday, who came to pay their respects, lay flowers and leave notes. The school, which was surrounded by a line of French riot police CRS, also provided psychological support to those affected by what had happened.
Some carried signs saying “I am a teacher” (I am a teacher) in honor of Mr. Paty. Online, the similar phrase “Je Suis Prof” was widely shared.
The impact of this on the school community will be great. But it also affects France, a country that has struggled enormously to cope with the effects of Islamist terrorism in recent years.
It’s been five years since gunmen broke into the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and killed 12 people. Others died in the following days, the precursor of a wave of terrorist attacks across France that left hundreds dead.
In Paris, the trial is currently underway against men and women accused of being complicit in these first attacks. At the start of the trial, Charlie Hebdo reposted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as an exercise in free speech.
Others have called it inflammatory, even reckless. Shortly thereafter, the magazine’s current human resources manager was moved from her home on the advice of the police.
Last month, a man attacked two people outside the former Charlie Hebdo offices; both suffered serious but non-fatal injuries. And all the while, the trial continues.
From now on, this murder will only increase the question of Islamist terrorism and its causes. It seems pretty clear that there is a connection between the teacher’s murder and Mr. Paty’s decision to start a class discussion about the Prophet Muhammad cartoons.
So what to do? In a country that values freedom of speech and secular government so highly, the right to insult is entrenched. But the fury over these cartoons has now cost many lives and dangerously escalated tensions.
In this dilemma entered the local mayor, Laurent Brosse. He was born and raised in this city.
“I want to tell the residents that we are going to recover,” he said. “We will all get up together. We will be resuscitated thanks to our spirit of solidarity which makes Conflans-Sainte-Honorine so unique.
“It is by debating, exchanging opinions and listening that we will be able to overcome this dramatic test. ”
But there has been a lot of talk in France in recent years in search of an answer, to find out how to preserve the fundamental principles of French society while curbing the rise of Islamist terrorism.
Judging by this horrific attack, the riddle has not been solved.