On October 16, the world was taken aback by the appalling murder of school teacher Samuel Paty, decapitated by 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov, who was was shot dead by the the police, shorty after the incident.
Samuel Paty, became the target after showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a civic class discussion on free speech.
We will not give up cartoons,” President Macron pledged at the coffin of the slain teacher. The president gave France’s highest civilian award, the Legion of Honour, to Samuel Paty.
“He was killed because Islamists want our future,” Macron said. “They will never have it.” While the Coffin was still not lowered to the ground, the caricatures of Charlie Hebdo were projected on the facades of the two regional hotels in Toulouse and Montpellier to defend freedom of expression, from 5 pm to 9 pm.
Mr. Paty’s death sparked an outpouring of emotion, especially among public schoolteachers. But there was also an immediate rush to mobilize the killing politically, as the government and various right-wing and far-right forces sought to draw its Islamophobic and anti-democratic “lessons.”
We can have all kinds of conversation on the legacy of colonialism, the reality of racism and islamophobia in Europe, the problematic mirage set up by French secularism, the dubious application of the idea of "freedom of speech". All of these conversations are valid and important.
The interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, announced a proposal for the government to break up various associations, including the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), the main body in France offering legal support to victims of Islamophobia.
Frequently attacked by various Islamophobic figures, the CCIF was targeted by Darmanin because the parent who had earlier criticized Mr Paty had sought this association’s help.
But the CCIF had said nothing on this subject — and this highly legally focused organization simply had nothing to do with the online harassment campaign.
But this appalling murder, or, more particularly, the political bid to exploit it, also make up part of a wider story about how terrorist outrages are used to attack Muslims in general.
Indeed, already on October 1, president Emmanuel Macron had announced an “anti-separatism” bill targeting France’s Muslims. A few days later, he changed his wording slightly, saying that the legislation was in fact aimed at “strengthening secularism and republican principles.” But the accusation of Muslim “separatism” had already firmly established itself in public debate.
The president’s intervention was not so surprising — indeed, it came not even a year after he granted a long interview to far-right weekly Valeurs Actuelles. While in international media Macron is usually hailed as a liberal, this interview, like his recent comments, paints a more complex picture, in which the president has strongly boosted the legitimacy of all kind of obsessive Islamophobes.
The way this works is very simple. Far-right figures make absurd, violently racist statements and contrive polemics against any Muslim who happens to have the slightest media visibility. This allows politicians with the same Islamophobic stock-in-trade to appear as “reasonable” purely because they refrain from the far right’s worst excesses. The effect? That public debate moves ever further onto such forces’ own preferred terrain." Also Read: