Forty-seven-year-old teacher Samuel Paty from Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France, was brutally beheaded Friday just outside College du Bois d’Aulne where he taught history and geography. Sources say Paty was teaching a lesson on freedom of speech and how it related to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre. Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine targeted by radical Islamic terrorists for publishing cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammed. Twelve people were shot in and around the magazine’s Paris office, with a total of seventeen people killed over three days of terrorist attacks in the French capital.
Witnesses said a man, now identified as Abdoulakh A., was outside College du Bois d’Aulne as classes let out Friday asking students to identify Paty. After Abdoulakh found Paty, he followed the educator as he walked home. Once Paty was a short distance from the school, the attacker began stabbing Paty in the head, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for God is Greatest) and then cut off his head. Abdoulakh then took photos of the deceased Paty, posting them on Twitter with messages insulting French President Macron and the French people calling them “infidels” and “dogs”. French police approached Abdoulakh, still at the attack scene, when he began firing on officers with an airgun. Officers shot Abdoulakh, and when he attempted to get up, police shot him again for a total of nine shots killing the suspect.
Ten people have since been arrested in connection with Paty’s murder, including Abdoulakh’s father and three other relatives. The French people are understandably shocked and devastated by the news but unilaterally vow that they will not bow to terrorists. President Macron said, “They will not prevail. They will not divide us.” as he called for a national tribute to Paty. Many former and current students and parents of Paty’s students spoke out to express their sorrow and praise for the teacher. A hashtag, #JeSuisSamuel (I am Samuel), began trending on social media showing solidarity in condemning the attack. “A civilization does not kill an innocent person, barbarism does,” was stated by Tareq Oubrou, imam of a mosque in Bordeaux, France, as Muslim leaders across France condemned the attack.
Paty’s lesson on Hebdo was relevant because the French government began the trial of fourteen people associated with the 2015 attacks. Paty showed the same cartoons that spawned the Hebdo attack in class with a warning to any students that may find them offensive, telling them to look away when he showed them. Islam teaches that any visual depictions of the Prophet Muhammed are highly blasphemous and are thought to encourage idols’ worship. According to Islam, there is no repentance for blasphemy, and death is mandatory for those that blaspheme.
The French anti-terrorism state prosecutor, Jean-François Ricard, released information on Abdoulakh, stating that he was born in Moscow, Russia, and was of Chechen origin. Abdoulakh went to France as a young boy under refugee status. He lived in Évreux, Normandy France, 62 miles south of College du Bois d’Aulne, and is believed to have no connection to the school or to Paty. He was unknown to anti-terrorism police but had minor misdemeanor charges in French courts in the past.