French President Emmanuel Macron has said the teacher murdered in a Parisian suburb on Friday was “assassinated because he taught his students freedom of expression.” The killing is being investigated by anti-terrorism police.
“One of our fellow citizens was assassinated because he taught his students freedom of expression,” Macron said after he arrived to the Paris suburb of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where the attack took place. “Our compatriot was the victim of a characteristic Islamist terrorist attack.”
The middle school teacher was attacked earlier on Friday in the street of the commune, some 28 kilometers northwest of Paris. The attacker allegedly shouted “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is Great,” as he assaulted the teacher with a knife. Media reports said the teacher was either “decapitated” or stabbed in the throat, succumbing to his injuries.
The attack on the teacher was an attack on the French Republic and its Enlightenment values, Macron said, arguing that the country was in an “existential” battle to defend the possibility of making children into free citizens “no matter where they come from, what they do or don’t believe, whatever their religion.”
“I want to say clearly tonight, they will not pass,” Macron said, urging the French to stand together in defense of their republic. “The obscurantism and the violence which accompanies it will not win. They will not divide us. That’s what they want, so we must all stand together.”
The slain teacher had reportedly shown his pupils a cartoon depiction of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, according to police sources, which devout Muslims consider blasphemy punishable by death. France is an avowedly secular state, with a significant Muslim population that immigrated from former colonies in Africa and from elsewhere.
“I call on all of our compatriots at this time to unite, without any distinction whatsoever. For we are first and foremost citizens united by the common values, a common history, a common destiny.”
The suspect in the Friday stabbing fled to the nearby town of Eragny, where he was cornered by police. He refused to surrender and threatened the officers with a knife, before he was shot multiple times.
Three weeks ago, a knife-wielding man injured two people outside the former offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, not knowing the outlet had moved. Charlie Hebdo was attacked in January 2015 by a group of armed Islamist extremists led by two Algerian-born brothers, loyal to Al-Qaeda. They killed a total of twelve people as “punishment” for the magazine printing cartoons of Prophet Mohammed.