A well-liked history teacher at a middle school outside Paris was beheaded Friday, police say, by an 18-year-old Muslim man of Russian origin who has no known connection to the school, report The BBC and The New York Times.
The assailant killed the teacher on a quiet street and in broad daylight, near the juncture of two north Paris suburbs: Eragny and Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. Police confronted him near the school after discovering the teacher’s body and, when he refused to disarm himself of a large knife, were forced to shoot him dead. Neither his name nor the teacher’s name was immediately reported.
President Emmanuel Macron said the attack bore all the hallmarks of an “Islamist terrorist attack” and the teacher had been murdered because he “taught freedom of expression,” according to the BBC. The Times extended Mr Macron’s quote to say the teacher taught “the liberty to believe and not believe.”
To teach a lesson about freedom of expression, the teacher at the Collège du Bois-d’Aulne had one day asked Muslim students to leave the class because he was about to “show a photo that would shock them.” The photo was a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, as published in Charlie Hebdo. The principal sent an email to students and parents, obtained by The Times, apologizing for the teacher’s clumsiness in teaching the lesson.
But tensions between secularism and fundamentalist Islam have been spiraling in France, and in the Muslim community, the situation got out of hand. Complaints from about 20 Muslim parents led to a video by one parent at the school, according to the president of a local chapter of France’s national parent-teacher organization. The history teacher is identified by the father in the video, who asked, “Why this hatred? Why does a history teacher act like this in front of 13-year-olds?”
The attacker, who lived more than 60 miles from the school, had no known connection with the video, but the arrest of other people in connection with the killing suggests he was tuned in to the growing anger in the Muslim community over the teaching of personal liberty in France, a foundation of the national curriculum.