Earlier this month, Prof. Paty had reportedly shown a class of students cartoons from the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo as part of a moral and civic education class discussion about freedom of speech. In response a number of parents demanded his resignation. Reports say that, before showing the caricature to the class, Prof. Paty invited any student who felt uncomfortable to leave the class.
The murder took place when Prof. Paty left school on Friday 16 October. The 18-year-old killer beheaded him with a large kitchen knife. He then took a photo of his victim and posted it on social media, with a message to French president Emmanuel Macron signed “Abdullah the servant of Allah”. According to reports, Police killed the suspect in a nearby city, Eragny.
Commenting the murder, French President Emmanuel Macron said:
“One of our fellow citizens has been murdered today because he talked to his students about freedom of expression, freedom to believe or to not believe (la liberté de croire et de ne pas croire). Our compatriot has been cowardly attacked (lâchement attaqué). He is the victim of an Islamic-oriented terrorist attack (attentat terroriste islamiste caractérisé).”
Commenting the attack, David Lopez from the French Educational League (an union of secular and humanist teachers) stated:
“We are shocked by the appalling attack on a teacher. The Education League denounces this barbaric Islamist attack that affects us all. We share the grief of the professor’s family, relatives and colleagues. This professor did his job by transmitting the values of the French Republic to his students, through the training of a critical mind and an understanding of what freedom of expression is. No one can dispute – let alone refuse – an education which is an integral part of French Republic’ school curriculum. Our entire nation must lend its solidarity to the entire teaching community so that such acts cannot happen again.”
The French Atheists Union commented:
We are shocked by this terrible act. We invite all journals to share the cartoons depicting the Prophet in sign of solidarity. The same cartoons should also be displayed on the most important public buildings in France (the General Assembly palace, city halls in province, etc.)
Humanists International’s President, Andrew Copson, commented:
“Five years after Charlie Hebdo’s horrific attack, yestarday’s murder of professor Paty is a new terrible and allarming attack to freedom of expression and freedom of thought in France and in Europe.
“Professor Paty has been brutally killed for just doing his own job. He was teaching to his students what it does mean to exercise freedom of speech, in a country where both freedom of expression, and freedom of thought and belief, including freedom of religion, are respected and upheld in law.
“To criticise beliefs, including through satire and ridicule, does not contravene others’ freedom of belief. Rather, criticism is essential to freedom of expression. Murder on the other hand is the ultimate nullification of all a person’s freedoms and being.”