World A terror attack in Nice threatens to turbocharge France’s debate on free speech and Islam
A gruesome murder in France rekindles the country’s debate on free speech and Islam
Muslims in France have been pressured to assimilate into the country’s secular culture. But at what cost?History and geography teacher Samuel Paty, 47, brought scrutiny this month when he showed his 12- to 14-year-old students two caricatures of Muhammad published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — the same images that in 2015 inspired jihadists to kill 11 staff members at the magazine and six others in Paris. Parents and teachers at the school, located just 20 miles outside the capital, said Paty gave his Muslim pupils the opportunity to leave the classroom or look away so as not to anger them.
The killing of three people in southern France on Thursday has been deemed aby French officials — and it looks to be related to the country’s ongoing controversy over the public display of cartoons depicting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad and the government’s general approach toward Islam.
Around, an assailant used a knife to kill three people, two women and a man, at the Notre-Dame Basilica. One of the women, who was reportedly 70, died inside the church, as did the man; the second woman “ ,” according to the AP.
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Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi told reporters he believes the attack was perpetrated by an Islamist extremist. “He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured” by police, Estrosi said. (“,” Arabic for “God is great,” is a common expression used by Muslims, especially during prayers.) “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt,” Estrosi added.
The suspect is now.
Two other incidents occurred on Thursday, the same day some Muslims observe, a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In Montfavet, also in southern France, a after threatening police with the gun he held. And in , a guard outside France’s consulate in Jeddah was attacked with a knife. The guard is now hospitalized and the suspect is under arrest.
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In response to the Nice attack and the other incidents, the French government hasand grown the number of troops protecting schools and religious sites from . French President Emmanuel Macron, after visiting the scene in Nice, issued a stark message: “I say this with the outmost clarity — we will not give in to terrorism.”
Leaders in several Muslim-majority countries, including, have condemned the Nice attack. “Under no circumstances are these attacks justifiable,” Egypt’s highest religious authority, Al-Azhar, said in a , calling them “inconsistent with the tolerant teachings of Islam and all divine religions.”
The Nice attack happened amid a broader debate in France over Islam and free speech
Earlier this month, a suspected Islamist extremist beheaded, a 47-year-old secondary-school teacher, as he walked home from school.
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The backlash against President Emmanuel Macron's comments on Islam intensified Sunday, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan again urging him to have "mental checks" and protests in Muslim-majority nations. Speaking after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded for showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils in a lesson on free speech earlier this month, Macron vowed France would "not give up cartoons" and said Paty "was killed becauseSpeaking after teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded for showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils in a lesson on free speech earlier this month, Macron vowed France would "not give up cartoons" and said Paty "was killed because Islamists want our futu
That was days after Paty had, as part of a class discussion on freedom of speech, showed his 12- to 14-year-old studentsof Muhammad that had been published by the satirical magazine — the same images that in 2015 inspired jihadists to kill at the magazine and in Paris.
Police found asuspected of belonging to the assailant that featured a picture of the severed head along with a message: “I have executed one of the dogs from hell who dared to put Muhammad down.”
Macron’s government turned Paty into a. At a national memorial for the slain teacher last week, Macron said that France “will continue the fight for freedom” and “intensify” efforts to end Islamist extremism in the country.
He also said France would continue to back anyone who wanted to display cartoons of Muhammad, noting his nation’s. His goal is to encourage an “ ,” as the president has put it for years, that aims to seamlessly integrate Muslims into French society.
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Muslim leaders accuse Macron of using divisive rhetoric for political gain and alienating France’s six million Muslims.Bolstered by social media, the campaign asks Arabs and Muslims not to buy French products in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s statements this month describing Islam as a religion in crisis.
Last week, French police raided numerous homes across France as part of its probe into Paty’s killing. About 15 people have been taken into custody and 51 Islamic organizations are under investigation.
The aftermath of the Paty killing has rekindled a contentious debate in France about how to balance freedom of expression with respect for a religion. The Nice attack will only add fuel to the fire.
“The point of terrorism is to shock, incite tensions and block this discussion,” said Charles Thépaut, visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank in Washington, DC.
, Nice’s mayor, has already called for a harsher government response. “Enough is enough,” he said. “It is now time for France to exempt itself of peacetime laws to permanently annihilate Islamo-facism from our territory.”
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How cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed placed France in the firing line of radical Islam .
In the wake to two terrorist attacks, anti-French protests erupt across the Muslim world in an escalating backlash against the European nations strict form of secularism.Two weeks ago, in a brutal attack that shocked the nation, a Muslim teen beheaded a school teacher in the streets of Paris after he used caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a class lesson on freedom of speech.